Considering that Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip was the closest game to something I would actually consider hardcore that Nintendo spent a respectable amount of time on at E3, we assumed that Ubisoft was going to be putting some solid development time behind the game. I was even thinking that they were so keen on the new Balance Board that maybe, just maybe, they would actually put the same amount of development time into the Wii version as they did the 360 and PS3. Considering the two latter system’s games are completely different from the Wii version it would seem that way indeed.
Of course the amount of development time and attention paid to the game isn’t what’s hot on everyone’s mind. The real question is does the Balance Board work well with a third-party game that has nothing to do with Yoga and push-ups.
After playing through the entire game with my feet I can tell you two things:
1. My television is at an awkward angle for Balance Board based snowboarding games that results in me getting a crook in my neck.
2. You’ll have to read the review to find out.
I guess the first question to answer is whether or not Road Trip is just another title shoveled onto the Wii because the Wii does exist and thus major companies want to have their games on all three systems. To this I would have to answer in the negative. Road Trip is a surprisingly well thought out game that was actually designed around the Wii’s strengths and not around downgrading the graphics to a point where the Wii can handle a 360 game. After coming off of the crapfest that was Quantum of Solace on the Wii, I was overjoyed to see a company actually paying attention to the little white box and delivering a game that clearly someone cared about.
Of course plenty of developers care about games that turn out to be total failures so that doesn’t mean that Road Trip is enjoyable, but it is. Players take on the roles of Shaun White’s friends, starting with just two and unlocking more as the game goes on. Each friend has different stats like speed and air and handling, and as players unlock more they’ll find the right one for them. The game features stages throughout the world that are broken down into four levels with each level containing two challenges and each challenge featuring multiple achievement levels. For instance, you can unlock the next level by scoring a certain amount of points on a run, but score another higher amount of points and you’ll also get an unlockable piece of artwork or a random “funny” email.
Shaun White is evidently a dickhead and invites his friends to come snowboarding with him in Canada. Of course once everyone gets to Canada, Shaun has moved on because he has the attention span of a goat or something. Shaun then proceeds to ditch his friends and make them chase him around the world competing in different snowboarding events and recording them for prosperity. The camera feature is actually a nifty liitle trick Ubisoft has put into the game. The player’s point of view is actually the cameraman, who is selected at the same time the player’s snowboarder is. At the bargaining of each level, players actually get to see the camera guy strapping in and pressing play. It’s a nice touch, but that isn’t all the cameramen do. Each one grants a special boost power that can help players out down the slope. Some give more air, others more speed and depending on the level different cameramen (or women) come in handy. I can’t say it’s an entirely necessary feature, but it is a fun one.
Fun is basically what Road Trip is about. The graphics are in a cartoony but well done style. Though for a snowboarding game I could have used better snow effects. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how good the game looked on my screen and the character design for the plethora of friends you meet works really well in the high flying world of Shaun White. This is clearly more Tony Hawk than it is Skate. If you’re looking for realistic snowboard than steer clear of this one. I’m pretty sure I’ve landed tricks off of jumps that would kill a man five times over in real life.
Then again, maybe this is the most realistic snowboarding game ever. After all it’s the only one that I’ve ever played standing up. The Balance Board controls work like a charm, unless you’re uncoordinated like myself in which case they work more like an old engine; it takes some time to get up to speed. I probably ran through the tutorial levels more than any other just because I felt so unsure of my feet’s ability to control myself. Once I got it down though, it felt pretty good. The boards sensitivity can be adjusted to three different settings and once you find the right one for you, steering becomes pretty easy. Though not as spot on as a controller (I’m not sure if that is more realistic or less, but it sure can be frustrating).
Jumps are executed by applying pressure down with both feet like you’re about to jump off the board. There wasn’t much of a delay between my action and the character on screen, and most of the crashes in the game were my own damn fault. Once in the air, players execute tricks by leaning one way or another or applying pressure to certain areas on the board that make sense. Players can do a one-off trick by pressing forward on one foot and back on another. I had a lot of trouble doing these, but since they’re pretty minor tricks it wasn’t that big a deal. For bigger tricks, players hold down a button on the Wii Remote and lean in a direction. Want to backflip while holding the front of the board? Hold down A and lean back. The only real problem I had once I got into the groove of things was overcompensating when I came back to the regular position. This would trigger another trick sometimes and mess up my landing.
Really the most fun thing to do with the board is go fast. The timed courses are a blast on the Wii Board, especially since leaning forward on it makes you go faster. The screen does a bit of a motion blur thing and every once in a while I’d catch myself actually leaning full force forward like I was on a board. Very fun.
Ubisoft didn’t forget that not everyone owns a Balance Board though. It is possible to play the entire game with just the Wii Remote. In this case the remote kind of becomes the board. Steering is done by tilting left and right and jumps are triggered by flicking upward. Tricks are pulled off with button presses and remote motions. Unfortunately the game was clearly designed around using the Balance Board and the difficulty doesn’t increase when the Wii Remote is chosen. Thus most of the levels become far too easy when the Wii Remote gets used. It’s just too simple to pull of stunt after stunt and keep the multiplier up when using the Wii Remote. It’s not not fun, it’s just easy.
This goes along with the entire nature of the game which is basic through and through. Ski down a mountain and win. Do it well and get some bonus features. Not much more depth to it than that. Luckily, depth isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The multiplayer in the game features not only a competitive mode but a co-op mode too. In co-op, two players can take on the entire game together with their scores adding up to one whole. Once again, not deep, but hella fun. The game doesn’t go online, which is sad since I wanted to flex my balance boarding skills, but far from a surprise.
So the board works, the graphics look good and most importantly it’s fun to play. What is the second thing we’ve learned? That if a developer puts effort into its Wii version of a game than it isn’t going to be a flaming pile of dog poo. Sounds like simple logic, but doesn’t seem that everyone got the memo. If you’re hardcore into the whole skateboarding/snowboarding genre this might not be the game for you since the Balance Board’s controls aren’t as precise as button presses, but for all the rest out there, it’s a new and far more fun way to play a game like this.
- It’s fun to play
- Cartoony graphics look good
- Co-op through the entire game
- Wii Remote play is way too easy
- No online
- Not too deep