Friday, January 30, 2009

Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip (Wii) Review

There's nothing more fitting than reviewing a snowboarding game in the middle of the cold winter months. Most people dread this time of year, but these goofy kids live off of it! Hang ten, dudes (that's surfing, isn't it?), because we have a review of Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip for the Nintendo Wii!

It's all downhill from here, but that's a good thing.

NOTE: Due to my lack of interest for Wii Fit and the inability to obtain a balance board, this review is based off the Wii remote control method only.

Third party developers have not been too kind to the Wii. Regardless of its dominant nature as the first place console this gen, many developers still are hesitant to create competent software for the system. When a game is made that is multiplatform, it's either held back by being a Playstation 2 port, or even worse, a PSP port, or it's just a downgraded HD game with poor motion controls attached. Now here's a diamond in the rough. Rather than take the HD build of a game and down-port it to the Wii, Ubisoft opted to create a version specific for the console, an endeavor that many of us wish more third parties would do. The end result is Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip, a more than capable game for those who are just getting into gaming and for those whose primary hobby is gaming.

Holding A will make your boarder go faster in exchange for worse handling.

Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip features a group of friends getting a text message from the legendary snowboarder Shaun White. This message invites the amateur boarders to meet him on a snowboarding expedition across the world. This simple premise begins all the wintry wackiness that occurs during the game's five "worlds". Each world has four different events to select from, and each of these feature completely different mountains to shred down. The variety of objectives aren't as diverse as what you would see in the Tony Hawk series, but they get the job done. Every course has a primary objective and a pro objective to complete. The primary objectives allow the player to progress through the game, opening up new runs and characters to play as, while pro objectives unlock new concept art and other bonuses. While one run might have the player racing down the mountain, trying to beat a certain time, another will have the player attempting to beat a high score. This is a perfect set-up for new and more advance gamers. The regular objectives are easy enough to obtain for those without much gaming experience whereas the pro objectives are tailored for those with more than several months of gaming under their faux-leather belts. I was told mine was the real thing and not "pleather", so get off my back.

Keep your distance from a rail unless
you intentionally want to trick off it.

There's only two boarders to choose from by the start of the game, but by the end, there's a fair selection of fictitious snowboarders to unlock. Shaun White is a playable character, but he's only available after the credits roll. It's not all for naught though as a series of difficult expert challenges are unlocked once the game is beaten initially, and there's a need for someone as skilled as Mr. White to complete most of them. Including Shaun White, each character has their own set of stats and skills. A player chooses the boarder they want to shred as, and then they pick the cameraman (or woman). This may seem like a frivolity at first, but once the player's respect meter is maxed, through performing enough tricks without bailing, the camera person's special skill can be activated for a limited time. While one boarder's skill can boost the player's maximum speed, another skill can increase the player's air time. It's baffling though that you have a cameraman, but there's no option in the game to actually record and watch your best runs...

Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip can be controlled with one of two control schemes: the Wii remote by itself or the main attraction, the Wii remote plus the balance board. The two control options can be switched at any time, so there's no need for regret. Popular opinion seems to agree that the balance board is the more optimum control method, but I was stuck using the Wii remote by its lonesome. Surprisingly, the remote isn't that bad at all, although there are several rough patches down the Wii remote control method's mountain.

There's a varied amount of environments to keep things fresh.

To move your boarder side to side, you twist the Wii remote the direction you wish your boarder to move. Flicking up the remote causes your player to leap into the air. To get the most air off of a kicker, a ramp used to give a snowboarder enough height to safely perform a trick, the game suggests you jump at the very edge of the kicker for the maximum amount of height. While in the air, there's a wide assortment of tricks to be pulled off. For instance, flicking to the left or right with no buttons held, flicking left or right with A, B, or A and B together unleash several different grabs, flips, and other gnarly moves. Rails are also prime for the tricking, but these can be more annoying as just nearing a rail will make your boarder automatically attach to it as if the boarder and the rail were two opposites attracting like a magnet. This is severely vexing when you're doing a mid air trick, and the game decides to aim for you for a rail instead of the ground-- causing you to crash a bloody and beaten mess, screaming in god-fearing agony. Perhaps I'm exaggerating a little, but my point still stands. Another obnoxious trait is having a run where your "friends" carve down the mountain with you. At first I was like, "Oh, this is cool", until every run I had with them felt like they were purposefully getting in my way. It'd be fine if them running into you didn't take so much time, but it absolutely ruins perfectly good runs. Trying to leap off a kicker to nail a 1,600 point trick only to have some moron bump into you at the last moment, completely screwing you over. Thanks, dudes. Thanks a lot.

With friends like these, who needs enemies? Am I right?
Yeah, I'm right! Didn't you read the review?

The way to score big during a run (besides avoiding your douche bag mates) is to keep your combo meter running by keeping the meter's timer from running out This is done by performing tricks without landing them sloppily or bailing altogether. Each time a trick is completed, the combo meter becomes full again and the number that each trick is worth multiplies. A trick can be worth up to three times its original value when the combo meter's bonus is at its highest.

Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip is one of the better-looking Wii titles. Rather than going for realism, the art team decided to go with a more stylistic approach which most of the best-looking Wii games go after. The look is colorful and cartoony, and it runs silky smooth. The voice acting is rather good, too, in addition to the wonderful soundtrack of licensed tunes. There's stuff in here for the classic rock lovers such as Heart, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan, Sweet, and Blue Oyster Cult, while there's also stuff that's more contemporary for you youngsters from artists like Run D.M.C., Audioslave, and Goldfinger. Each level has a set of songs that play, and if you don't like one song, just hit the 1 button to play the next.

None of these shots are bull. This game looks very good.

Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip is an extraordinary effort from Ubisoft. I very much enjoyed the game, and I didn't even play it with what many people consider the best control method, the balance board. There's enough fun for new gamers as well as enough challenge for veterans. A few snags in the slopes bar this game from being beyond good such as dumb AI, a few control issues, and a lack of online options, but overall Road Trip is definitely a game that won't cover you in an avalanche of mediocrity.

Overall: 7.5/10

1 comment:

Christopher Jon said...

Crying shame you don't have a Balance Board. Makes the game much more engaging.