Project Powder Preview: Realistic Snowboarding
By Joshua Temblett, Onrpg Journalist
Project Powder (PP) is the latest game from the young and successful publisher Outspark, who have already delivered two well received games, Secrets of the Solstice and Fiesta, both of which were MMORPGs. The company is now shifting their attention onto a genre that is not so saturated, the online sport scene. This area of online gaming has been slowly, but surely, growing with a variety of titles, from fantasy football to tennis. PP aims to provide an alternative to going outside, getting out your snowboard and ridding down massive hills, with its “realistic” and captivating approach to the sport of snowboarding.
The backdrop to this game is simple, if not a little politically correct. It’s 2146 AD and after the human race’s continuous use of fossil fuels the polar ice caps melt and winter no longer exists. After a century of not seeing snow, winter sports have become a thing of the past and are seen as “myths”. A breakthrough discovery, though, enables the human race to branch out to other planets (particularly snowy ones) and, yes you guessed it, snowboard. Yes, it’s silly, but then again, it offers you something new, right?
The storyline also includes a reason for the huge jumps being available to you in the game, saying that because these planets lack gravity, it enables the snowboarder to fly for long periods of time and land safely after jumping from heights of around 300 ft. When you boot up this title you are given a choice of three distinct characters, Max, Ross and Beth. What character you choose doesn’t really matter though, as the only difference between the characters is their appearance. Due to its interesting difference I would like to see the story branch out a bit more and maybe see more of a relationship established between the characters, however since there is no “Story Mode” and these two things are no doubt just being used a premise, there isn’t really much of a point.
Graphically, Project Powder is definitely something to talk about. Whilst they may not the best graphics ever seen, they definitely hold up a candle to many Free MMO’s as they have style (with a mix of anime and realism) and suit the overall feel of the game. If you have a lower end spec computer though, beware as this game does require some mid range specs to play it properly. The character models are incredibly realistic, you’ll be amazed as your avatar slides around the course just as real snowboarders do; there is nothing cooler than seeing your character buckle, after a series of successful tricks, as they land back on the slope from a large group. There are some minor graphical flaws however these can be easily overlooked due to the amazing environments the game presents you with.
This being a free-to-play online game, you’d expect some sort of levelling system. This is indeed the case. The more races you do, the more experience and money you earn. As you level up you learn more tricks and are able to achieve a higher trick score. Your hard earned cash can be used to buy better looking clothes, accessories and snowboards which make your character look cooler. The money is generally very hard to earn and it can be a bit of a pain saving up for the items, then again there aren’t really any “must have” items and they don’t really do much other than raise your stats by a bit (if not at all). For a game about snowboarding, speed is an important factor, and Project Powder achieves this well with speed lines and your tracks being heavily emphasized during gaming to show just how fast you’re going. To add to this there is a boost opinion (with your character being harder to control when you use it, due to his or her speed) and if you press the “↑” button then your character will go faster. The game generally feels fast and fun.
There are three modes of play, Race, Battle and Coin. The Race Mode is when boarders compete with each other to reach the bottom of the course first, Battle mode is just a more glorified Race mode but with items which can slow your opponent down. Coin mode is when racers must fight to get the most coins, with whether or not you get to the bottom in time being irrelevant.
The latter mode is definitely the most fun, as it requires you to think quickly to avoid negative coins (that reduce your points) and to get the coins that give out the most points. The mode also requires a lot of skill as in order to get a lot of points you are required to do tricks in the right place in order to get to the biggest booty. The gameplay is fun (if not that rewarding) and it will generally suck you in with its addictive take of the activity. PP is one of those games you can lose hours playing as you get so absorbed into it.
The music is “different” and contains many dance and rap songs. Some of these are lacklustre however most do well to compliment the fast and furious gameplay. The sound effects aren’t the best, however they get the job done. Some of them are very annoying though (especially the sound effect when you hit the coins) however the sound of your character hitting the snow after a high jump does add to the game’s distinctive feel.
Project Powder is a fun, charming title that, whilst it may not grab your attention for hours on end (depending on whether it’s your cup of time or not) is fun whilst it lasts. It’s one of those games you can play for a minute or two before getting back to work but at the same time contains enough gameplay to last you a little while. Whilst it’s still in Open Beta, it’ll be interesting to see how this game grows and what new features are added. I’d say, take it for a ride and see how well the game fits with you, it may be your thing, it may not, but for a couple of hours it can certainly give you some entertainment.