A tiny bit of snow, and Irish society goes racing downhill

1080° Avalanche (2003)

Let me tell you, there’s nowhere in the world more unprepared for snow than Ireland. I do mean that, because can you name a country that could be worse for extreme weather? If we go around the houses – Canada and to a lesser extent the United States expect snow to occur.

Perhaps the southern States get blindsided by a blizzard, but let’s face it, they’re not prepared for the wild winds that’ll uproot their entire houses, either. If it snowed in Central or South America, it’d melt pretty quickly. And just because some penguins abound the tips of South Africa, it doesn’t mean any of the continent ever becomes draped in white baize.

Continental Europe is well used to snowfall, experiencing more varied climates – they’re perhaps not so comfortable in the furthest depths of winter though, as old Hitler found to his cost in Russia, and those guys invented snow. You’re lucky to even get rain in the Middle East unless it’s chaff and shrapnel, and we don’t listen to the Australians at the best of times, but it seems to be just beaches down there to me.

So we’re back to the UK and Ireland, and generally the UK councils aren’t a complete disaster when it comes to snow; they can send out more than three trucks to do some salting and gritting. Naturally that type of investment and foresight is not to be found here in Ireland, so when we get a deluge of snow, which seems to happen about once every five years, it all starts to fall apart.

No really, I’m talking about the very fabric of society here. You hear these quotes about society only being three days away from anarchy, or complete destruction. And so it proved when, suffering from cabin fever, me and my best mate embarked to the pubs. Well, we’d seen Shaun of the Dead, and what else is there to do in an apocalyptic situation, only decamp the pub and wait it out?

Well, while we indulged ourselves, news filtered through the lounge like wildfire that some hoodlum and commandeered a digger and torn down a local branch of Lidl, not so long after the place had already been fully raided. Alright, if this was the States there’d have been shootouts on the street and SWAT teams. I get that. But where I’m from it’s still an outrage if you don’t bless yourself when driving past the church. Razing a building around here is like slapping the Pope in the face.

So when the flakes fall, the schools close, the colleges close, and the offices close, although work from home takes the buzz out of that one. Anyway, I should say that most offices close; in an old job of mine that was a thousand years behind the times, after they’ given us a day off through gritted teeth in the worst of the snowstorm, they wanted us in the next day for that all-important retail work, and so I had to drive there on the snow and ice.

Now, I’m not going to overdramatise this, it’s not like I had a near-death experience or anything, but I did skid a few times and Jesus Harold Blimey if that doesn’t feel like someone’s stuffed some icy snow down your cacks. And even after getting to work (and hamming up my expert driving to impress the girls), well, what a bark really. You see, I’m the type of person who writes the whole day off if it’s raining out. A bit of snow and I’m eyeing up the entire week in bed. I’m just not used to snow, I can well do without it. I just don’t want to take part in it.

Or do I? When 1080° Snowboarding came out for N64, it was a quintessential rental game. I would never think about buying the game for myself, of course. Perish the thought. Do I look like a snowboarder to you? It’s not even within the realms of possibility. I’ve never referred to anyone as “dude” in my life and I’m not liable to start now.

Still, the first 1080° was fairly enjoyable. The main component of the game seemed to be races down the snowy slopes against AI or one of your pals, although I usually tended to kill my guy in some gut-wrenching accident, scattering him against jagged rocks or something. To keep sane and guilt-free, I actually spend a much larger proportion of my time in the Trick Attack mode, attempting to throw out 1080s on the half-pipe to put together an unassailable high score. And I know I wasn’t alone in that endeavour, either.

I suppose 1080° Avalanche for GameCube exists to try and turn everything up to 11, or perhaps more accurately, to turn everything up to 2003. The game features and opens with a song called Choke from a band called Cauterize, with the whole music video (a sweaty underground bar) included on the disc for you to watch.

I’m not going to have a go at them for it – after all this was decades ago now and I certainly ain’t a music critic – but it’s about as generic an American rock millennium spiky hair song as you can get, featuring what I call American Pie guitars, all looking and sounding like something you would have caught on the Kerrang TV station in the early 2000s.

But then, that’s what 1080° Avalanche is all about, right? This is an extremely 2003 game. Capturing the radical zeitgeist perfectly, where the camera editing was busy and zany as hell, and you were nobody without blonde highlights in your hair – and for proof of that, just look at the cast of characters available, now with a lot more voice samples and personality, not to mention a much larger selection of awesome boards.

In essence, the gameplay and flow is much the same, just with nicer graphics and a more bodacious frame rate. OK, let’s be fair, there’s much better physics on offer, although you still get these ridiculous situation where your guy (or girl, I hear they can get pretty extreme as well) will have wiped out sometime prior, but their rigid cadaver will still be flying up into the air, headfirst.

The upshot of it though is that there isn’t an awful lot new here to keep you entertained. The single player races are good for a wee while, but they get old quick, even if there’s helicopters and jet fighters overhead causing avalanches for you to race away from. There’s multiplayer, and even broadband support if you want to go really mad and link four GameCubes together.

And then there’s the Trick Attack, where again I reckon you’ll be spending all your time, whether in the sky-high Air Make jump or the faster paced Half Pipe. It’s all quite addictive I must say, enough to see you try and beat your high score again and again – just best of luck trying to figure out the combo system.

But there’s something else that I fear proves fatal for 1080° Avalanche’s prospects of staying in your GameCube, even more fatal than smashing into a rock formation or a deer at maximum velocity, and that’s that this game had some contemporary competition in the snowboarding department, unlike the first game (and I’m happy to put Snowboard Kids N64 into its own section).

You see, 1080° Avalanche was now in competition with the SSX games, and I believe it lost massively. Hence Nintendo haven’t tried making a game out of extreme sports like this again, and they’re happy to just rest up and stay warm while the others dip their toes into the icy waters. Just like me then, they’re much happier to sit in a cosy house by the fire, doing absolutely nothing.

17 March 2023

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