Shawn White’s Snowboarding

As anyone who has met me will quickly agree – I’m built for comfort, not speed. The idea of strapping myself to a plank and throwing caution to the wind sliding down a mountain is not massively appealing but for some reason I like playing the games – probably due to the comfort and warmth of doing it in a nice chair, not on a snowy mountain.

Anyway, my gaming fingers took me into the world of Shawn White’s Snowboarding – a world engineered using the Assassin’s Creed engine. A world where my first question was “who?” and my second was “why do the controls feel all clunky?”.

Talking the first question first (always a good place to start), Mr White appears to be a kind of snowboarding god. Yeah, I still don’t know. From the cutscenes, asuming it was Shawn that was telling me what to do (kind of), I think he’s a bit like a younger but hairier Mick Hucknall, with a warm anorak. Ok, so he’s an olympic gold medalist, I know this because I looked him up on line. But yeah, he told me what to do in a round-about sort of way but I still felt quite directionless as I played the game, which (as so many games do, nowadays) allows you to define your own experience. For me, that experience was shouting at the controls and aimless wandering!

Like I said before, the controls do feel a bit clunky. Controlling the board in the game uses the old faithful – the Tony Hawks control style. Hold down a button (or trigger, in this case) and release and you’ll pop an ollie (as I think the young people call it). Push the left stick and you’ll turn, or spin if you’re airborn, and pushing the right stick lets you do grabs. Simple enough. It just feels rubbish. There was no massive sense of speed as I hurtled down a mountain slope, and more often than not I found that a move on the left stick caused my character to come to sliding halt rather than a nifty slalom round a tree or two.

The game is also a bit directionless. There are challenges dotted around the mountain but no screamingly brilliant reasons for taking part. You get cash to buy new boards, that’s all well and good, but when the four game mountains are all unlocked and playable at the start of the game it’s almost as if part of what you could be working towards has been taken away from you, although there are secret spots dotted around the mountains where you can get some decent boarding in. The mountains are quite varied, with the Japanese mountains populated by a lot of cutesy balloon creatures floating above the slopes.

You’re given the task of collecting massive coins (“we call these euros,” Shawn informed me as a giant Casino-style chip magically appeared on the mountain) which then let you unlock new moves – such as increased jump skills and various other bits and bobs.

Collecting these Euros is how the game progresses – collect enough and you unlock a few new challenges to play through. Win these and you win the game. I think. No-one really explained the game to me as I was playing. It’s all very aimless. And for a snowboarding title, the fact that you can collect almost all of the first set of 12 Euros without riding on your board is a bit rubbish. I literally walked across the mountain collecting them while the dodgy AI controlled people ploughed into me time and time again.

When I stumbled across a Euro that needed a bit of boardwork I discovered one feature of the game I actually did like. There’s a kind of warp feature which is essentially a cheeky little checkpoint that you can return to when you (and you will) muff up a trick you’re trying to pull off. This was one of my favourite features when I discovered it in Skate, and here on the mountains it’s just as handy as it saves you having to trek all the way back up the slopes (via foot, air or chairlift), usually to a position miles from where you actually want to be, to try again.

One small saving grace which makes playing the game a more pleasant experience is the quite nifty soundtrack – there is, I think, nothing better than sliding down a mountain to the strains of Don’t Fear The Reaper.

On the multiplayer side of things, you can get together with your friends and take over the mountain – go round as a party pulling off tricks and throwing snowballs with gay abandon. I guess this is one area the game could excel at – if you get a group of like-minded friends together you could have some good fun trying to out-do each other for the best run.







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