GRIND SESSION, for PlayStation, $60. Rating: NNN
Video games are best when they let you do the impossible -- fight evil armies, hit like Vladimir Guerrero and skateboard in an empty pool without coming home in a body cast. Grind Session lives up to that promise.
While the mega-popular Tony Hawk's Pro Skater remains the skateboarding game of choice, this is a healthy contender. The premise is the same, the graphics similar and the crashes equally unpleasant.
Moving from empty pools and industrial sites to indoor competitions and oddly undulating rooftops, your chosen skateboarder performs a dizzying variety of finger flips, board twists and big airs with ridiculous names to get points. Manage not to fall and nail yourself on a handrail and you win "respect points" from the judges that open up other areas of the game.
The struggle to accumulate points to move on to the next course can be immensely frustrating but manages to extend the actual life of the game dramatically.
Extravagant tricks Grind Session is not as immediately gratifying as the Tony Hawk model, in part because the more extravagant tricks here require you to punch out a confusing series of commands on the controller that are impossible to remember.
On the plus side, though, the music is better, with Jurassic 5, Sonic Youth, Black Flag and the X-Ecutioners all in the mix. Also, when you fall from eight feet above a wooden ramp with a sickening thud, you can simply turn the machine off rather than go through life with a hideous scar.
A pleasant distraction until Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 drops in July.