Alternative stretch

Jan 3, 2001 at 12:00 am

Alternative sports: dangerous — and often deadly. Obviously, they’re the perfect snapshot for a video game. Take “SSX,” for example, with its winding, 70 kilometers per hour slopes, sharp, joint-aching turns and unrealistic, blood-negative abuse meter — such awesome vicissitude from an ordinary round of b-ball. For about $49, the utter insanity and high-speed, big-air, full-contact adrenaline of extreme snowboarding can be experienced from the comfort of your gas-fired living room.

Brought to gamers by Electronic Arts, the digital leader of all things athletic, “SSX” is anything but relaxing. PlayStation 2 allows for full doses of graphically enhanced riding, so staying balanced while zooming through a splinter-thin mountain crevice poses two problems: Avoid admiring the scenery and hug the cavern walls precisely, without deviation of course. One wrong move and a pretty, unscathed face risks kissing the ice-cold slope and — at such extreme speed — cementlike snow. Yet, one violent tumble can’t stagger the “SSX” crew. Sacrifice is not an option.

And in the PlayStation 2 biosphere, the snowboard outwits the surfboard. Temperate, tropical water is no match for Everest icicles; so EA’s “SSX” vs. Rockstar’s “Surfing H30” is like pitting Schwarzenegger against a sole slug, decaying from salt poisoning.

“H30” is immature at best. The game’s controls are quite clunky and it lacks eye-candy flair. The only remotely refreshing aspect of “H30” is an interesting controller attachment, sculpted like a surfboard — of course. However, such a neat gizmo is hard to find in retail outlets — and, by novelty standards, only packs a five-minute tang.

To make up for the lack of flavor in “H30” — and to freeze-drip any gaps that SSX may have left — Konami has the perfect arcade romp. Though it’s hardly an alternative sport (unless you’re an unemployed hit man), “Silent Scope” is an enthralling arcade shooter. A barrage of levels has you aiming at trigger-happy terrorists, shedding virtual blood in an attempt to rescue the president and his family.

Just don’t do anything foolish — like actually attempting any of the physicalities above.

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at [email protected].