Tony Hawk Can Rest Easy
Shaun White is a remarkable young athlete. He’s won seven gold medals in the Winter X Games so far and one gold in the Olympics for Men’s Half Pipe. Shaun White may very well be deemed the Tony Hawk of the snowboard, but the game that bears his name won’t keep Mr. Hawk up at nights worrying about the competition.
Shaun White Snowboarding is available for virtually every popular gaming system on the market. The DS version offers a unique control scheme utilizing the stylus to influence the motion of the snowboard. It’s an interesting concept that does work but it never feels natural. It’s just an end to a means, a novelty that offers some fun and challenges but one that you just can’t take seriously after you master the controls. It’s like driving a car with an Etch-a-Sketch.
Shaun White Snowboarding doesn’t have enough variety or depth. It’s a forgiving game in the arcade tradition, which may be good for beginners but doesn’t offer any lasting challenge. Overall the speed is slow, making it even easier to navigate your way down the slopes. Unfortunately, once you’ve been down one slope, you’ve been down them all. The only thing that varies is where things are located, so in effect each new slope or branching section seems little more than something that was thrown into a random course generator. The mountain courses are linear and suffer from lack of graphical detail.
There are two main gameplay elements to Shaun White Snowboarding, racing, and performing tricks. You can concentrate on either or both depending on what mode you’re in. A series of mountains are available from around the world, which can be unlocked similarly to a lot of other features in this game such as tricks and power-ups. In the race mode, you will compete against three other boarders to see who gets to the finish line first. The challenge mode offers you various challenges to complete in addition to performing tricks such as catching huge air and grinding rails. A four-player multiplayer mode is offered but it will require that all players have a copy of the game. The unique aspect to this is that you can trade stickers that act as customizing options. There is a single-copy mode but it’s extremely limited and incredibly slow to load. If you’re going to demonstrate this game to your friends it’s advised that you just play-and-pass.
It’s the control system in this game that throws me. As I mentioned, it does work but it’s feels so forced. The analog stick would be much preferable to the stylus, or even a touch screen version of a larger D-pad would feel better. Your board is displayed on the bottom screen. Here you will drag the stylus around it in an effort to influence its motion. Drag it to the left or right of the board to turn it in either direction. Drag the stylus to the front of the board and you will increase your speed. Slowing down requires you to drag it to the back. Flicking the stick from the back to the front will facilitate a jump. While in the air you can draw patterns to pull of various in-air tricks. Just remember to take the stylus off the screen before you land since you can’t be caught landing in mid-trick as it will not earn you anything but heartache. These tricks are worth a lot of points so you’ll want to do as many as you can but just don’t get greedy.
Using the stylus in this way makes you feel like a third-party to the action. It feels as though you’re controlling the board remotely, not seriously connecting with it.
Grinding rails is another reason to jump with your board. Fortunately, the game gently pulls you in the direction of the jump and will very forgivingly place you atop the rail as long as you make some kind of effort. The problem is actually remaining balanced on the rail. It takes some practice, but upgrades in the form of decals can be collected that will increase skills such as balance and speed. These decals are located throughout the course as are the various ramps and surfaces to grind on, including the requisite cabin roofs and horizonal logs.
Presented in a cartoon style, Shaun White Snowboarding sports a decent 3D engine but it gets sluggish at times. The course is not very well detailed, and the lack of subtle shading makes it difficult to judge relief. Overall the speed of the game is slow, and when you try to push the envelope you’re likely to lose control and bail. Fortunately, you can get back up and get on with it without much of a penalty.
The tune selection is good, but it’s not varied and there are only a handful of songs as compared to the Wii version. In fact, it’s not really fair to compare this DS version with the others. This is a unique version, and I use the word “unique” in the most polite form. It’s certainly got a good novelty factor, but it’s got about as much depth as a mini-game. So, please allow me to end this review with a terrible pun. You’ll either love it or hate it; it’s that black and white. Even with another player, Shaun White Snowboarding is still not much fun. Remember, two Shauns don’t make a white. Sorry.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.6 Graphics
Lacks detail. Animation is clumsy and slow. 2.8 Control
Drawing with the stylus isolates the player from the virtual snowboarding experience. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Good tunes, but there could always be more variety. 2.8
Limited fun in both single and multiplayer modes. It’s like a mini-game.
2.7 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.