Last year, Ubisoft released Shaun White Snowboarding on all home consoles. Surprisingly, the Wii version of the title came out on top. The kid-friendly presentation and excellent use of motion controls helped give the game the nod over the HD systems. Rather than focusing on hardcore shredding, which came off as rather shallow on PS3 and Xbox 360, the light and breezy tone set in SWS: Road Trip for Wii was refreshing and full of fun.
Fast-forward a year and Ubisoft has decided to abandon the HD consoles and concentrate their efforts solely on producing the best Wii version possible. While SWS: World Stage is marginally better than what was on offer in Road Trip, nothing substantial has been added to the formula. As such, the game has lost all of its novelty if not all of its charm. Players who really got into Road Trip may be disappointed to find out that Ubisoft Montreal has essentially left well enough alone. That being said, the addition of Wii MotionPlus support and an increased difficulty level make the game a decent buy regardless of a lack of innovation. In fact, we still had a good deal of fun with World Stage. So, if you or a loved one haven’t played Road Trip, World Stage is still a good bet.
Rather than focusing on an endless winter, World Stage ups the ante by having players compete against the CPU in snowboarding competitions. The goal is to try and get a ragtag group of aspiring professionals to rise up the global ranks and compete on the world stage. Along the way you’ll unlock loads of gear, be joined by new characters, and be challenged by a number competition types around the world. By placing first, second, or third, you’ll steadily accrue enough points to rise up in rank. As you rank up, you’ll be invited to new competitions with better and better boarders.
Competition types are surprisingly varied. In addition to well known competitions such as boarder-cross and half-pipe, events such as big air, slope-style, score vs. time, elimination, and lots more punctuate the campaign mode. I liked the way all the different events kept things fresh. Although, after a short while, everything starts to blend together; in the end, the differences between each challenge are minor. Still, playing alone or with up to three other friends in the campaign mode is a good bit of fun, and everyone will find a few comp types they find to be especially engaging.
In addition to campaign, you can also challenge friends locally in the versus mode. Versus mode lets you choose between unlockable cp events and free play. Cup events are grouped challenges. The player that accrues the most points at the end of the cup across all events wins. In free play, you can select a specific event on the slope of your choosing. These one shot comps let you play only those event types you most enjoy. Multiplayer action is typically done via simultaneous split-screen action, but players can also enact a hot-seat option, taking turns negotiating the competitions.
Of course, controls in SWS: World Stage are a pretty big deal. Since Road Trip, the folks at Ubisoft have been committed to incorporating Nintendo’s innovative motion controls. The development of the Wii Balance Board really made Road Trip a lot of fun to play. Balance Board support is back and it’s quite impressive how many tricks you can pull off and just how realistic the Balance Board feels. However, a year later, the same setup has gotten a bit stale. At some point, likely sooner than later, you’ll realize that getting off the couch to take your turn standing over the board is more work than it’s worth. Thankfully, Wii MotionPlus support has been brought into the fold. While you won’t get the same sim-like feel as you do on the board, the motion controls are quite responsive, nonetheless. In fact, I found pulling off tricks and cruising around the slopes to be more precise and hassle-free. The game, for a jaded old gamer like me, was a lot more enjoyable while seated. I realize this won’t hold true for youngsters, but adults that play along will find the novelty of the board doesn’t last and will be grateful for the accessible, efficient, and improved motion controls.
Presentation this time around is identical to that of last year’s game. However, rather than living out of a conversion van, the game’s new hub is that of an international airport. Accessing the different events, stats and achievements, and even creating your own tricks, is a breeze. The cartoon look lends itself well to the console, and interesting weather effects and a sense of speed keeps the game sharp. Animations, while smooth when executed individually, begin to look artificial and rough when linked with various tricks.
Sound quality is decent. The various popular tunes that are played throughout the game will likely please young gamers’ tastes. However, I was a little dismayed that songs don’t change when repeating the same event. This becomes readily apparent, and even frustrating, because the game is more challenging in this sequel. Listening to the same pop-rock 10 or more times in search of a first place finish is enough to make you settle for second. Voice over work is proficient, but it too is annoying. The array of actors chosen do a good job of capturing the shallow, youthful personalities they’re portraying, but the dim dialogue and asinine interactions are tiresome. The worst of the bunch is Shaun White himself – especially at the outset of the game when he incessantly and repetitiously shouts out trick commands.
Shaun White Snowboarding: World Stage for Wii is another quality boarding title. However, the few improvements don’t add up to a lot more than what was available last year; this really isn’t a very inspired sequel. As such, owners of Road Trip need not shell out the dough for this newest version. If you haven’t played the original, World Stage does incorporate Wii MotionPlus into the fold and the difficulty level has been increased, so you’ll have a more enjoyable time if you plan on playing the game from the couch or are simply looking for a decent challenge.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
The cartoon look still works well. The weather effects are better this time. 4.2 Control
The various Nintendo peripherals are all nicely incorporated into the game including MotionPlus support. 2.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music selection is fine but very repetitive. The dialogue is poorly written and often grating. 3.4
There’s a good game here, but it’s essentially a re-skinned version of last year’s offering. Picking up Road Trip in the used bargain bin is likely the way to go.
3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.