IGN Review of Shaun White Snowboarding Road Trip
The Wii Balance Board has been available for six months now and only a handful of games so far make use of the peripheral. Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip is one of two big action sports titles this holiday season that put the board to good use and we're happy to report Ubisoft has put together a great package. The Wii version of Shaun White is strikingly different from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games -- instead of scaling down the graphics of the other consoles so that Wii owners get the ugly step child port, the developers wisely built a unique Nintendo SKU with stylized, cartoonish visuals. The result is one of the best-looking Wii games around. Even better, the motion controls feel great, and the balance board turns out to be a fine snowboard.
Shaun White can be controlled with just a remote or a combination of remote and Wii Fit balance board, and both work well. The board tends to be a little less precise, and for some of the game's harder challenges you may have to step off and take the mountain with just the remote. But for most of the events either input method will suffice. Switching between the two schemes is a breeze and can be done at any time during a game.
If you're just rocking a remote, tilting it side to side will handle your steering. It's surprisingly responsive and works better than most Wii racers that use tilt controls. Pressing A will cause your boarder to tuck in and increase speed, although you'll lose some maneuverability. Holding the B button will allow you to carve left and right but your momentum will take a nose dive. Giving the remote a quick flick will cause you to jump. While airborne tilting will get you to spin and the B button will perform grabs. You can also flick the remote in different directions during a jump to perform one-off tricks.
Throw the balance board into the mix and your steering and jumps can be controlled with your feet while the remote will still handle carves and grabs. You stand on the board sideways, just as you would on a real live snowboard. Turning is done just by leaning forward or back with your rear foot. A small bounce will make your avatar jump. Tricks are accomplished by placing weight on different combinations of the balls and heels of your feet as well as pressing the A and B buttons. Three levels of sensitivity are available when the game calibrates the board. For the most part riding this way feels really good, but as I mentioned it's just a little less accurate. Turning and spinning are a bit easier with the remote, but getting up on the board is a lot of fun. It's really a toss up as to which control scheme is superior and if you have a balance board you'll probably enjoy using both methods.
This is a casual, literally pick-up-and-play game. Not only are the controls easy to master, grinding has been simplified so that if you're anywhere near a rail when you jump your board will lock to it. If you approach the beginning of a rail head-on you don't even have to jump -- the game will automatically put you up there. These aren't complaints. Ubisoft has crafted a game that is easy to get into and feels really good to play. Each event has two goals: an easier "dare" goal and a more challenging "respect" goal. Casual players can proceed briskly through the game just by achieving dare goals, but the respect challenges are also fun and extend the experience. Like most snow- and skateboarding games you'll have to chain tricks together in order to rack up higher scores. It's not as deep as other action sports games, but it is definitely fun.
The premise here is to give players the sense of camaraderie that comes with travelling and snowboarding with your friends. You start out with three people in your group and as you progress more will join along the way. Each rider is proficient in different areas like speed, jumping, and landing. For any challenge in the game players can choose a rider and a cameraman to follow (your cameraman also provides a stat boost). We're encouraged to use a variety of riders because the challenges are always changing from tests of speed to skill-based trick contests. The idea is you're travelling around the world trying to catch up with Shaun White, who is apparently kind of a big deal. Each mountain is more elaborate than the last and offers some pretty impressive vistas. The game sports some flashy effects when you're gunning down a hill and creates a real sense of speed. Nice extra touches abound, like the snow that covers the camera lens when you crash.
Real-world camaraderie is also available as the entire game can be played cooperatively with a friend. Unfortunately, this isn't a drop-in/drop-out feature, so you can't continue a co-op game on your own or bring in some help if you're having trouble in single-player. Competitive modes for up to four players are also available in both simultaneous split screen and hotseat games where everyone takes turns. Of course, only one balance board can be used at a time.
Shaun White has a good licensed soundtrack, including a wide variety of music from bands like Run DMC, Blue Oyster Cult, and Audioslave. Tapping the 1 button during a ride will cycle through the track list. Sound effects also sound great, especially when skidding over ice. The remote's speaker is used to indicate when you've nailed a trick.
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