Taking the “Extreme” out of Extreme Sports
Many times, when extreme sports are translated to video games they become so larger than life you would need to be a superhero to achieve such feats. Gravity is defied. Physics become irrelevant. Life-threatening injuries are brushed off.
Shaun White Snowboarding (SWS) offers a more realistic simulation of the sport, where athletes are limited to pulling off tricks and catching air gravity would actually allow. Controls are easy to grasp, as this game has a party spirit and graphics comparable to what one might expect from a Wii title. Translated to the PS2 and PSP, Shaun White Snowboarding is a nice alternative to other skate and snowboarding titles on the market, combining free roaming elements with platform gaming and extreme sports.
As you begin, you are prompted to create your own character. You will probably want to, as Shaun White Snowboarding disappointingly offers only three playable characters, comparable to the long list offered in the popular SSX series. Character designs and animations are very cartoon-like, and it is obvious this game is intended for the Wii. The PS2 and PSP versions even share a 10+ rating with the Wii, whereas the 360 and PS3 versions have been slapped with a Teen by the ESRB. PS2 owners who enjoy cartoon aesthetics and more family-friendly gameplay may appreciate that Ubisoft hasn’t excluded the PS2 on this release as it certainly goes outside the box of what most snowboarding games have to offer.
The biggest strength in Shaun White Snowboarding is the feeling of freedom one gets while playing. The game becomes just as much about exploration as it does about honing your craft on the hills, as each mountain features numerous runs and seemingly endless possibilities from wide-open spots to park areas and narrower, forested paths. As you travel around, you are not limited to any time restraints, and various freestyle competitions and races can be found all over each of the four levels in the game. Shaun White Snowboarding will have you carving three fictitious mountains in Alaska, Japan and the vaguely labeled Europe, and one modeled after Park City in Utah. Each makes for good use of the entire mountain, as you must explore all regions to find the events.
Exploration is made slightly easier by the radar to show where you are with use of the HUD. The radar, however, tends to be frustratingly unhelpful. It is so vague that trying to navigate your way around these vast landscapes will often force you to rely on memory with little help from the HUD for direction. While adding to the spirited sense of freedom you get when snowboarding in real life, the radar becomes almost useless when most needed.
Where the radar becomes most frustrating is in Shaun’s Quest – the staple mode of the game. As your created character befriends Shaun, he will have you roaming the mountaintops to collect coins, achieve different tasks and unlock new abilities and statistics. Performing different tasks to retrieve all coins becomes progressively more difficult on its own, but finding the coins scattered about each map tends to be even more time-consuming.
While it is obvious developers are concentrating on using the entire play area, roaming around trying to find each coin can become tedious and unentertaining. It is fitting that many of the cutscenes starring Shaun tend to be equally as dull, as the storyline based around you having to complete various objectives is loosely pieced together. The story mode seems somewhat irrelevant in the game, other than the need to star Shaun White as the game’s poster boy, and many people will find free-roaming more enjoyable than playing through the solo campaign. Multi-player is also one of the game’s strongest suits, as casually boarding through such large areas with a buddy prove to be the most fun you will have with SWS.
The goal of Shaun White Snowboarding is undoubtedly to offer a more realistic, less arcade style of gameplay. All of your jump, spin, grab, and carve moves are easy to grasp and landing them is made easier, even if you return to the snowy surface a tad awkwardly. Moves may also be more exaggerated than what a professional could actually pull off, though Shaun White Snowboarding never turns into an Amped or Tony Hawk style of arcade. The result is a much slower game, and the speed at which you travel down hills tends to be a lot duller than those familiar with playing less realistic boarding titles. Laugh-out-loud wipeout animations are also non-existent in Shaun White Snowboarding, popularized by Tony Hawk. The transition of such extreme sports games to a more family-friendly title such as this can actually be hard to get used to, and may cause some gamers to bore of Shaun White Snowboarding quickly. It rapidly becomes apparent that this game is better suited for children and gamers less experienced than you probably are.
A cool soundtrack featuring a list of acts as diverse as Anti-Flag, Run DMC, and Jefferson Airplane is mixed well with the ambience of shushing down mountains for an impressive aural experience. Visually, Shaun White Snowboarding tends to look unpolished. There are moments of shaky player movements and shuddering at certain times, and the game utilizes unappealing blurring techniques when reaching a high rate of speed. This is actually when the game looks and feels its worse, as the visuals of bombing down a hill is not quite met in the sensation of this very slow-moving game.
In all, the games accessibility for more casual gamers may bore some fans of other snowboarding titles. Anyone used to the SSX or Amped styles of snowboarding may grow tired of Shaun White Snowboarding and its simplistic controls and lack of speed. With its E 10+ rating and overall Wii-styled imagery, those who don’t enjoy more casual party game styles will probably bore with this easily.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Blurring effects are used frequently and framerate issues are common, though the game boasts a cool cartoon aesthetic. 3.3 Control
Controls are easy to grasp and comprehensive, though are incredibly simplistic; they may bore more experienced gamers. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great rock soundtrack is complemented by breezy ambience while free-roaming the mountaintops. 3.1 Play Value
Free-roaming the vast levels tends to be the most fun, as gamers will tend to find little entertainment value in Sean’s Quest mode. 3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.