When it comes to “boarding” games, be it skate or snow, there generally only seem to be two choices. One is an over-the-top representation of the sport that often involves power-ups, unrealistic tricks and physics, and more “extreme” attitude than is normally palatable to the average human. The second, and generally more interesting, choice is a more down to earth portrayal of what could feasibly be accomplished given a board, a good amount of training, and a ton of dedication. Luckily, Stoked steers clear of the first option, taking a decidedly more realistic approach to its snowboarding experience.
Players will start off Stoked by creating their boarder from a very limited set of options. Sadly, your character’s face cannot be altered from the presets in any way. In fact, there are only four different character choices per gender consisting of Light, Dark, Tan, and Dark Tan. The included clothing and board options are a little more diverse but equally as static, so if you are a player who really craves intricate customization, you will likely be rather disappointed by this game’s scant offerings.
Once you have finished piecing together your boarder from the scarce choices provided, you are treated to a professionally given tutorial. Here you’ll learn the basics of how to jump, grab, and trick from Wolle Nyvelt. These tutorials are presented rather nicely, having the computer-controlled Wolle demonstrating how to perform these vital actions, then allowing the player to try it until they get it right. Despite being constantly derided by Wolle upon failing to properly execute moves, it works pretty well overall, and by the end you’ll feel like you have a decent grasp of how to play the game.
The controls in Stoked, while still being different, will feel somewhat familiar to anyone who has played the Skate series from EA. Pressing up on the right stick will result in a hop. Holding the right stick down and then pressing it up gives players even more lift. Once airborne, players can perform a multitude of different grabs, utilizing just about any combination of the left and right triggers as well as precise right stick movement. Each trigger seemingly corresponds to the boarder’s respective hand, with while holding both results in a two-handed grab. This allows for a sizeable repertoire of moves that are fairly easy to pull off.
However, with all of the different possible grabs, it can still become difficult to remember exactly how to perform certain moves. Thankfully, the folks at Bongfish realized this issue and have completely circumvented this potential negative. At any point while snowboarding, players can open their virtual PDA and access what is known as their Grab Bible (GB). Here every grab your character is capable of performing is stored and listed, conveniently separated by whichever triggers are used to execute them. Each entry is also easily broken down for the player, using a picture of a controller that displays exactly what needs to be pressed to successfully complete the grab.
Players are definitely given the chance to put the GB through its paces from the very onset of the game. After the introductory tutorial, players are thrust into the game with very little direction other than to accumulate a sizeable number of fame points to turn pro. These points can be earned by successfully completing challenges found while boarding freestyle down any of the game’s five mountains. There are basically only two kinds of challenges in the game. One involves beating a set score using only moves of a certain type, such as grab or spin, and the other is essentially Simon Says with a snowboard, requiring specific moves to be performed.
Considering that points are scarce and you’ll need sixty six fame points to turn pro, expect to spend several hours as an amateur. Unfortunately, this is one of the major problems with Stoked. Early in the game you feel directionless, endlessly retrying challenges in an attempt to get to the much more interesting game hidden beneath the lengthy introduction. Once you’ve turned pro, you’ll get to take on other pros in an attempt to gain more moves, have photo shoots that can display your boarding prowess, or even have sponsors fighting over whose clothes you’ll be wearing. I’m all for gradually easing players into an experience, but this is one game that really needed to speed up the process of getting to the good part.
Speaking of good, the graphics in Stoked are actually quite nice, especially considering that it’s a budget title. The way the light reflects off of the fresh snow on distant mountains is particularly lovely. Constantly changing daylight and weather conditions only further make these environments beautiful and believable. The only real glaring presentation issues come from the lack of variety and some noticeable pop in, though neither of which manage to adversely affect the gameplay.
However, the actual act of playing Stoked isn’t without its fair share of problems. Preloading hucker jumps is complicated at best, requiring an elaborate string of button presses and circumstances to work correctly. The physics in the game can be a tad unforgiving, usually resulting in many undeserved failed landings. Pedestrians will sometimes saunter into the middle of your jump, completely annihilating any chance at a successful trick. The game also seems to have issues registering grabs at times, which is quite troublesome when trying to complete the final move in a series of required tricks. Keeping in mind that you can retry any challenge in the game by simply pressing the back button, having to retry challenges multiple times due to these issues can still be rather infuriating.
Even so, Stoked is a good overall package for anyone looking for a more realistic snowboarding game. It has a lengthy single-player experience, a varied online component, a decent soundtrack, nice graphics, and is coming in at a budget forty dollar price tag. Unfortunately, the game also has its share of problems, such as the incredibly slow initial pacing and limited customization, that keep it from being a must have title. Still, if you can overlook its few issues, Stoked is certainly worth checking out.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
The environments in Stoked remain picturesque despite some small issues with pop in. Characters also receive some nice touches such as getting covered with snow after failing trick attempts. 3.0 Control
There can be some issues with grab recognition but, for the most part, everything feels and works as it should. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While there isn’t much here that you’ll likely recognize, the soundtrack is actually quite varied and competent. 3.7 Play Value
The game starts off slow but really pays off after turning pro. A lengthy career and the ability to take to the online slopes will keep you playing this one for longer than you may expect. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.