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Shaun White Snowboarding
Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Ubisoft Entertainment
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1; 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Extreme)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Shaun White Snowboarding is the snowboarding equivalent of Skate, or at least it tries to be. Other times, it tries to bring something new to the extreme sports genre, namely a platformer-like collect-a-thon. Although the new elements show a conscious effort to create something new from the developers, they aren't able to pull it off.

The absolute best part of Shaun White Snowboarding is the presentation. It is very easy to become distracted by the sheer size of each of the four mountains you'll call home during the game and you'll be happy to know that you can freely explore these environments. Some of the sense of wonder is lost when you have to go through and find objects, though having the ability to keep boarding around the mountain after each event is a great addition to the experience.

While the scope of each area is impressive, there isn't much to see once you start exploring. Only one of the mountains is based on a real location (Park City); the others are made up and lack any distinctive traits. They feel more like levels from a videogame and not enough like a real place.

The soundtrack is fairly eclectic. You're got everything from "Play that Funky Music" to "Counting the Days," so you'll undoubtedly find something you like - it's just a matter of having that song come up.

Shaun White Snowboarding offer players lots of space to play in, but with few interesting things to do with the spaces. Each of the four mountains offers enough room to board and very little structure. If you want to go anywhere in the game (at least from a progressive gameplay standpoint) you'll need to complete Shaun's Quest.

Though it may sound daunting, Shuan's tasks basically come down to you wandering each mountain in search of coins. Really, the quests are just an excuse to work some of the aforementioned platforming areas into the game. It's entertaining for an hour or so, but then you remember that you're playing a Snowboarding game, not a platformer. In the end, these come down to long periods of time where you're not even on your board. There are a total of twelve coins scattered around the four mountains. As you find coins, you'll unlock powers that improve your basic stats, such as the ability to gain more air. The new powers are cool, though they aren't that much of a motivating factor since they are all things you probably should have had at the start.

To its credit, Shaun White Snowboarding offers a decent number of events, such as half pipe competitions or trick runs. Most of the events revolve around beating the clock, which is a minor disappointment, though they are still fun. Another cool option is that every event is multi-player friendly. At the start of each event, you can invite a friend to join in. I wasn't able to try this option (there's no way to invite people not on your friends list), but it's a neat option.

Your only real nemesis during races is the clock. There are very few events where you go up against A.I.-controlled characters. This contributes a sense of loneliness to the game, which as far as I can tell, goes against the fun of snowboarding. I've never been myself, but it just seems like snowboarding (like skiing) is something you would want to do with other people.

Aside from finding needles in the haystack, events are generally pretty easy once you get the control fundamentals down. There's a noticeable lack of obvious bounds on some tracks, so it is easy to go off the track, forcing you to restart the event. On the plus side, this only happened a few times. Also, don't be surprised if you find yourself repeating events as finished events aren't clearly marked.

Game Mechanics:
Wandering the slopes looking for coins is a tedious mess. You are given an in-game radar that attempts to point you in the right direction, but the first time you find an area, you'll discover that the dot was more of an approximation than a big red "X." It's easy to zoom right past tokens or dedicate a large chunk of time you could be snowboarding to finding hidden objects. I'll admit that I sort of like this type of goal in a game - just look at some of the 360 Achievements I've gone out of my way to earn - but I like them more as a side activity, not as the main quest.

Finding events is a little easier. The map screen is detailed enough that you have a great idea about where to go. However, if you want to get there, you need to board your way to the event. It's fun the first few times, but it doesn't lead itself to quick play. It's difficult to sit down and play a quick event; instead, you need to dedicate time to finding the event first. You can use a lift or helicopter to cut down on the travel time, but they aren't a substitute for a fast travel system.

Shaun White Snowboarding follows EA's Skate when it comes to controls. The two analog sticks are the most important part of the system and allow you to pull off a myriad of tricks as you barrel down the side of a mountain or in a half pipe. At least that's the intention. The system isn't as deep as it first appears, though. Pulling off tricks is really just a matter of pushing the (Right Stick) in one of eight directions and tweaking your moves with the shoulder buttons. Flips and tweaks are the only really complex parts of the system, and that's only because they make landing harder.

The biggest issue facing Shaun White Snowboarding is that it doesn't know what sort of sports title it wants to be. At times, it goes for realism and for the first hour or so, it feels like that is the experience it is trying to deliver. Then it turns around and introduces elements that make it seem more like an arcade experience. Taken alone, the elements work as a game, but when it begins to flip-flop between the two, the only thing that comes out of it is a directionless game.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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