Pure is a game developed by Black Rock Studio and published by Disney Interactive Studios. I know what you're thinking, you're thinking that you didn't know Disney was out out there actually publishing good games, but this time it's actually true. Pure is good indeed, not just good, this game is awesome. Between the time spent releasing a High School Musical game or whatever other cash-in release for the DS or the Wii, they've actually managed to do something right.
Pure is a racing game with an asterisk. That means you race but you also have to work out some other stuff along the way. I'm talking tricks. They play a huge role in Pure, it's through them that you'll be able to gather boost power, the more tricks you do the better, the tougher they are, even better; if you start repeating them they'll earn you less points, always aim for fresh tricks. They are triggered by 5 buttons in the controller while also pressing some direction on the stick. The "A" button takes care of the easiest quickest less-valued tricks. The "B" button is responsible for the middle ones. The "Y" button will deal with the harder more advanced ones. They are increasing techniques, at first you'll only be able to perform the basic ones, after some nailed tricks, the B-button will be liberated, after more tricks, the more advanced will become available; whenever a player falls, he loses a certain amount of juice in the Thrill Bar -- the Trill bar is how it's called the boost meter, also the bar responsible for freeing buttons for tricks --, thus losing the ability to perform harder tricks, being forced to build up juice all over again. Beyond these regular tricks lie the special tricks, you need a complete bar and a star to do it, and are executed by pressing both "LB" and "RB" and a direction on the stick. These special tricks offer the ultimate level in points earned and aesthetics; they are just too cool, each character has one exclusive special trick which somewhat reflects their personality, the rest of the specials are shared with all characters. You can also perform frontflips and backflips by double tapping the stick up or down.
To get the air needed to perform a trick you need to find a dirt ramp along the track -- it won't be hard. The harder and more valued the trick is, the more air you'll need, as it will take longer to finish the move. For the special tricks you need to find one of the huge jumps around the course, a few jumps have what it takes to support a trick that takes that much long to be completed. To jump you simply need to press down and up just before leaving the ramp, in the game it is called "preloading", simple and effective. You won't find much trouble controlling your vehicle, the controls sometimes seem a little rounded but you still have full control of what you do. When falling from a jump you can control the vehicle using the character's weight -- well, you, actually, just use the analog stick --, you can fall while already preparing for an upcoming left turn or incline the vehicle to match the irregular ground you'll be landing; the better you can land with all wheels reaching the ground at the same time, the less speed you'll lose with the landing.
One might think the key to winning is knowing when to save up juice and use at the right time, it's important to be aware. If you reach special status you get a star in your juice meter -- meaning you can then perform special tricks -- and you'll be able to use the specials even if you use all the boost and lose mid and hard tricks, this way you can use all boost and when you're out, perform a special and recover practically everything back due to the high amount of score you get from them. But the real key to success does not dependent on boosting, you can win basically any race without using it, with them serving more as a pre-ramp skill to get more air and perform more tricks -- which, by the way, the more you link together, the more the multiplier ups, meaning more points earned. The real key to victory is finding out the secondary paths of the courses. At first, you'll find it strange that some racers will be able to finish the race several seconds before you could, even with you not making that much mistakes, maybe they are using a different route than the one you're using. There are several ways of completing a track, some pathways require just attention to notice them camouflaged somewhere in the middle of a course, some will require you to use a ramp to reach a suspended place, the boost will come in handy for these occasions, some will cut you quite some time, others not so much, while others will impose a harder terrain to drive on. It's your call whether use them or not.
There are three main types of competitions: race, sprint and freestyle. In race you start a 3-lap race against others, whoever crosses the finish line in first will be the winner, pretty straightforward. Sprint is basically the same as race, but the tracks are way shorter, some with laps of less than 20 seconds, and the number of laps is increased to 5; sprint competitions are known for being very intense in a generalized mess kind of way, but pretty fun. Freestyle is the best elaborated type of competition here, it's also very fun, counting with the game's good trick system; the system actually revolves around points and tricks, rather than racing and time; in this mode you are given a fuel bar and a score display, both depend on tricks, the fuel bar will go down until it reaches zero and the only way to postpone it is to nail a bunch of sick tricks and combos, while the score display will transform whatever trick or combo you do in points, and will dictate the winner; as you can see it's not about time, even though if you nail more tricks and combos you'll naturally stay alive longer in the field, it's all about score; there are various power-ups scattered around the courses to help the player with some facilities, like instant special trick allowance or temporary fuel bar freezing.
The single player experience can be called brief, but it's intense, and that's what matters. You have 10 events, each with an increasing number of race, sprint or freestyle competitions, going from 4 to as high as 7. You have online multiplayer but you don't have physical split-screen multiplayer, which is a crying shame since a game like this pretty much demands it; maybe what we see here is the reflection of the impending decadence of split-screen multiplayer over online matching, or maybe they have just forgotten, who knows. There's also only a handful of different tracks to be chosen from, but they are pretty good and it takes too much for them to get old, maybe in a future sequel, a higher number of tracks would be greatly appreciated, but so far, so good. The difficulty in single player is also pretty good, it's surely not easy, but not hard as much for you to try to commit suicide in the middle of your living room.
Vehicle customization turned out to be pretty satisfying, you have lots of little pieces to build your ATV from scratch, with the possibility to lean towards top speed, acceleration, handling, boost and tricks. You can have up to 10 different vehicles in the garage. As you advance in the game you'll be able to change your character's looks as well. Graphically this game also shines, the sense of speed is great, the details are amazing, the overall job is nothing short of great. In the music department the game doesn't disappoint either, lots of fast-paced rock tunes will accompany the player; the sound effects are also amazing, and most of the time more recognizable between the frantic gameplay and the musics with sound of motors humming, people screaming and many other things, the effects kind of suffocates the actual music, not allowing you to really pay too much attention to the music tracks, but they are indispensable as well as the rest.
Pure ends up doing everything right gameplay-wise, the system is great and works wonders, helping debut a great game that shouldn't be missed by any racing fan, as well as anyone wanting a purely awesome game. While the fun will not last that much, it will be frantic, intense, and ultimately incredibly satisfying. The absence of physical split-screen multiplayer should not keep you away from purchasing this great game, after all the online is there, even though it's clear that this is a problem which should be corrected in the sequel, and let's just hope there is a sequel sometime in the future, creating a franchise like this only to let it fall into oblivion is not the smartest thing to do, that's for sure.