IGN Review of Shaun White Skateboarding
Shaun White made his video game debut nearly two years ago on the slopes with Shaun White Snowboarding, a game that wasn't exactly the second coming of SSX, but it wasn't a colossal disappointment either. Sadly the red-haired wonder's second outing, Shaun White Skateboarding, is a poorly focused game with plenty of errors in its design. Diehard Shaun White fans will be able to find a few moments of fun to cling to, but with the Flying Tomato staying on the sideline for most of the game's missions, those instances are few and very far between.
Shaun White Skateboarding presents a world totally devoid of color and emotion thanks to the evil totalitarian government regime known as The Ministry. Never mind how they came to be in power or who in their right minds would ever elect such a soul-sucking government party. It's best to just accept the game's premise and not put too much thought into what's actually going on. Just know that Shaun White has been imprisoned by this evil government, which means that you'll be playing nearly the entire game as your created skater. Because, you know, that's what everyone wants from a game called Shaun White Skateboarding, right?
So while your main goal is freeing Shaun White from his captors, you spend most of your time bringing emotion and expression back into the game world with your skating. This is done by simply landing tricks, at which point an explosion of color erupts from beneath your feet and spreads to everything around you. It's a decently cool effect the first time you see it, but after the 6,000th instance, it gets a little stale. Not to mention the fact that bringing a lifeless world to life with skateboarding doesn't make much sense.
The story is pushed along by a bunch of ancillary characters (more like caricatures) that provide a few laughs as you make your way through the campaign mode. Shaun White Skateboarding has one creative element to it that sets it apart from the rest of the skating crowd and that's shaping. Shaping allows you to extend certain rails and ramps any way you please, or so it seems. In reality just about every rail and ramp has a pre-defined endpoint that you'll need to hit to make your way to the next objective. If you don't hit that point your ramp or rail will likely lead to open air and you'll need to restart the shaping process. As it turns out, the creativity of shaping is sort of non-existent in single-player.
Flow is another little trinket that's thrown in to try and change up Shaun White Skateboarding's formula. It's a score modifier of sorts that also gives players more influence (the ability to bring life to the surrounding environment and people) for each trick they land. There's nothing really new or noteworthy about the mechanic as it's more just a tool to force you into landing tricks and learning the game's control mechanics. It's reset whenever your skater "dies" (which in Shaun White means exploding into a bunch of white and grey pellets) but don't expect to see any cool bails or physics-based injuries as there are none to be had.
The skateboarding itself seems to take a backseat to everything else that's going on in the game's world, which is a shame. The mechanics are fairly straightforward and simple, obviously aimed at people who might not be hardcore skateboarding fans. Instead of employing the same scheme as EA's Skate, Ubisoft built a much simpler mechanic for Shaun White. Instead of having to move the right analog stick in a way that's indicative of the movements of the skateboard itself, you can simply flick it in any two directions and you'll get a trick. Grabs are a little overly difficult as you have to jump, then move the stick in a given direction to trigger the grab itself. I found them to be a slightly unresponsive and took too long to perform. Thankfully there are other tricks like hand plants, manuals and an assortment of grinds, so there's never a shortage of stuff to do on your board.
Also, the physics system is extremely forgiving, something that's once again trying its hardest to bring in non-skateboarding fans. The only issue is that the system is so forgiving and the skating is pushed so far into the background behind the silly story mode, that Shaun White Skateboarding doesn't feel much like a skateboarding game at all.
It doesn't help that the objectives that you're forced to complete throughout the single-player game are pretty darn boring. At one point I found myself clearing pigeons off of amusement park rides. It was about as much fun as it sounds. Most quests feature a similar goal like clearing off Ministry installations such as propaganda speakers, spy bots and de-influencers (machines that limit your ability to bring color and life to certain parts of the world), but none of them are very much fun. It all feels very forced, all in the name of elongating a single-player experience that isn't very much fun to start.
There are a few multiplayer modes as well, but none bring much more fun than what's found when playing by your lonesome. My favorite multiplayer mode is The Ministry vs. The Rising, a new twist on King of the Hill that has you land a trick to capture points around the level. My single biggest letdown was that there's no statistics or awards handed out at the end of each round of multiplayer. There's nothing signifying who landed the most tricks, who had the highest point value per trick, what my favorite trick was or anything else of that nature. All in all, for a mode that brings people together, the multiplayer feels all too vacant.
The visuals that populate your surroundings in Shaun White Skateboarding are equally as disappointing as the world itself. None of the characters feature much detail, which is fine for this sort of game that clearly isn't trying to present a realistic world, but almost nothing pops on-screen. The closest the game comes to impressing is letting loose the wave of color at the end of each trick, but even that gets to be an annoyance over time. There's nothing in Shaun White Skateboarding that looks particularly bad (except the framerate, which stutters at times), but there's certainly nothing that impressed me, either. That's especially true in the PS3 version which looked a bit worse than the Xbox 360 rendition. Both versions have 3D effects as an option which, while they do add a nice layer of depth, don't exactly revolutionize the skating experience, either.
The one bit of silver lining in the package is the sound, which combines some cool tracks with fairly funny voice work. The game's characters are mostly seen and heard for the sake of comedy, and sometimes it works quite well. Despite all that, I was disappointed to learn that the sounds of a cool skateboarding crash are never heard in Shaun White Skateboarding. I'm not sure if they were left out to insure no one was dissuaded from hopping on a skateboard for themselves, or for some other reason, but if we learned anything from Skate, it's that people really love a good fall.
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