I used to play a lot of Cool Boarders back in the day. When everyone was obsessed with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, I got my video game extreme sports from the snow. That was many years ago, though; I don’t think I’ve played a snowboarding game since the first SSX. There hasn’t exactly been an abundance of them in recent years, so when I heard about Mark McMorris Infinite Air, I saw flashes of my childhood.
For better or worse, Infinite Air isn’t Cool Boarders, nor is it SSX. If anything, it’s snowboarding’s answer to Skate: a simulation game focused on recreating the experience of snowboarding as realistically as possible. As such, it’s a game that might appeal to hardcore snowboarding fans, but that’s not me, and it’s definitely not the arcade-like fun I was hoping for.
That whole simulation approach starts with a relatively complicated control scheme. You can’t just jump; you have to wind up your torque, timing it properly to get the best lift at the edge of a feature. In the air, you can do simple grabs with R2/L2 and the right stick, but trickier tricks, naturally, require more complex inputs. All of that’s fine, and expected. The hurdle I could never get over, though, is having to control your movement in the air so that you land on your board rather than your face.
I’ve landed on my face plenty in my time with Infinite Air – a lot more than I’ve landed properly, I’d wager. This is a game that expects you to know (or learn) the intricacies of snowboarding physics if you want to get anywhere with it. It’s a hardcore game for hardcore snowboarders looking for a more lifelike experience. It’s far beyond my area of expertise to say whether it achieves that, but I can say that this is not a game that welcomes newcomers at all.
In fact, I found it downright alienating. Circuit mode offers a fairly standard progression of courses and objectives, but making your way through them requires completing challenges within each level (as opposed to simply “beating” each level). With my general lack of snowboarding expertise, I quickly found the challenges too difficult to overcome, making progress impossible.
Circuit mode seems like a relatively small part of the game, anyway. Instead, much of the focus is on an open mountain full of player-designed courses. It’s actually kinda fun just cruising down the mountain, taking it easy and not trying to actually do anything. Getting onto a course, though, is a painful process of trying to get close enough to select it without overshooting completely. If you go too far, though, no worries – the map is littered with course markers, to the point of becoming overwhelming, so you’ll find another one soon enough.
The problem with having a game driven almost entirely by player-created content is that most of it is, well… really bad. The tracks in Circuit mode are great, but on the open mountain, I haven’t found a single course that made me think “Hmm, that was well-designed. Good work, person who made that!”. I’ve struggled to even find events that were functional.
The end result is that, though I can certainly see the appeal for the right audience – the people who want a complicated, realistic snowboarding simulation – Mark McMorris Infinite Air is a game that I can’t see myself continuing to play. Call me when there’s a new Cool Boarders or SSX.
Mark McMorris Infinite Air is developed by HB Studios and published by Maximum Games. It’s available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
A PS4 press copy was supplied by the Australian distributor for this review.
Review impressions are reviews published for games where the reviewer hasn’t been able to play the game in full for some reason – usually time constraints, technical issues, or difficulty with the game. We always endeavour to play games in full before writing a review, but this isn’t always possible.