Those among you who don't have the time to head up to the slopes or to plant yourself in front of your home console to get your snowboarding on may no longer have an excuse. Shaun White Snowboarding makes its debut on the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS handheld consoles this November, and each version brings its own unique twist to the boarding experience. We had a chance to take both out for a spin during a recent Ubisoft press event in Park City, Utah.
While both the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP versions of Shaun White Snowboarding offer a variety of downhill courses littered with obstacles to get your trick on, each caters to its platform's particular strengths.
The focus in the PSP version of Shaun White Snowboarding is on character progression as you steadily beat various challenges in the game. You start by selecting from a variety of characters, each with a set of attributes for factors including speed and cornering. You will be able to boost these attributes as you gain more experience through progression in the game.
In addition to boosting your character's base attributes, you will be able to purchase various stickers that you can add to your snowboard. Each snowboard can support up to three stickers, which essentially act as permanent power-ups to your snowboard. The large variety of stickers (about 20) and the ability to augment your character's strengths give you the option to specialize toward your strengths. You can even trade your stickers with other PSP players. The graphics in Shaun White Snowboarding for the PSP are sharp, and vivid colors make it easy to recognize objects (even thin rails).
In the Nintendo DS version, the object of the game is to reach the bottom of each mountain before three other boarders, who will be racing against you. The runs have various obstacles, such as rails and ramps (to perform tricks) and ice patches (to increase your speed). While the graphics aren't necessarily on par with the Sony PSP version, the obstacles are easy to identify and are functionally reasonable.
The strength of the Nintendo DS version, however, is the game's usage of the stylus control. A snowboard is displayed on the bottom screen while you navigate using the top screen. Depending on where you place the stylus, weight will be applied to that area of the board. In this way you will be able to turn, crave, or even place your weight on the front of the board to accelerate. Jumping is done by moving the stylus from bottom to top just as you hit a ramp. Once in the air, you rapidly move the stylus around to do various tricks (though you can't control which specific trick you will do). Performing tricks will earn you a short boost to your speed to help you win the race. The stylus also allows you to map out a particular route down each mountain (though only a few options are available).
Multiplayer on the DS is also a strength of the game, with support for up to four players via wireless connection. Connecting to other local players on the DS is easy (we were able to start a game within a minute), and gameplay is identical to single-player.
Both the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS versions of Shaun White Snowboarding play to their platform's strengths extremely well. The DS plays with an emphasis on speed and multiplayer options, while the PSP functions more like a role-playing game. If you own either handheld console and are looking for a quick, engaging snowboarding game, either game should serve you well. Shaun White Snowboarding will be released on November 16 for both consoles.