Shaun White is one of the most successful and talented young athletes of our time — just look at all the gold hanging around his neck. There is no doubt that he is an athlete here to stay, representing team U.S. on the slopes, and wowing audiences on half-pipes. He’s even acquired enough fame to ensure the release of another videogame outing, following the sadly mediocre effort, Shaun White Snowboarding. Unfortunately, his latest outing - Shaun White Skateboarding - seems destined to follow a similar path to last year’s snow-covered antics.
Shaun White Skateboarding, available now for the PlayStation 3 and numerous other formats, is a skateboarding romp that sits somewhere in between fellow stable mates Tony Hawk and Skate. It doesn’t quite live up to either series, but falling somewhere in the middle isn’t a terrible thing either. Still, with an odd and uninspired “story,” noticeably flawed gameplay, and terribly dull quests, the game’s potential falls decidedly short, but it's still just about enjoyable enough if you have a few hours to kill.
As mentioned there is a story present, although it seems its only intention is to force you to learn how to skate and push yourself to perform better tricks. In the latter portion of the game, the unfolding narrative invites you to perform some odd “go find this” or platforming quests that prove downright annoying. But the basic story starts off interestingly enough. An evil regime known as The Ministry has turned the world colorless. The government is completely opposed to skateboarding, for some reason, and goes so far as to capture local legend Shaun White. As a rookie skateboarder, it’s your job to bring color back into the world, effectively spoiling The Ministry’s plans. In order to achieve this ultimate goal, you’ll first need to free White himself.
To restore color back to areas you’ll need to build up flow, which you can accomplish by pulling off various tricks. One of the game’s strengths is in the presentation switch between the grey city and when your character adds emotion and color through flow. The higher your flow, the more complex areas you’ll be able to uncover. You’ll propel through the actual story by way of completing a series of quests. These range from eliminating Ministry signs or bringing color back to skate parks. There are plenty of characters that lead you through the story, all of which are entertaining enough, and certainly push the Teen rating.
Shaun White Skateboarding sets itself apart from its counterparts with the ability to shape ramps and roads. This is an odd ability, really, that allows players to jump on green ramps or roads and, while riding them, move them to your liking. This allows you to get to higher locations and discover new areas. The problem with this ability is that all shaping ramps and roads seem predetermined, meaning virtually every ramp you shape has a predefined ending location, and if you screw it up, you’ll need to reset it.
And here lies one of the biggest annoyances with the game. You can string together truly epic grinds on shaped rails, and at the end realize your last rail didn’t go where it was supposed to. This makes you re-ride the rail, and reset the last one. You’ll use the analog stick to balance on rails, and while it’s nothing new, longer rail grinds require some finesse, and you’ll likely run into some frustrating moments. Too often, jumping onto a rail is easy, but jumping off to get on another rail can be tricky and downright frustrating.
Don’t expect any big wipeouts, either. We only “died” a couple times on account of landing on our head while attempting to execute a flip. Well, in actuality, we were trying to convert from two verts, and failed, resulting in the game thinking we were hoping for a flip. The physics engine is beyond lenient. It’s clear that Ubisoft put the actual skating mechanics in the background, which seems like an odd decision given the very nature of the title. As such, everything is decidedly simplistic. For example, if you want to pull off some of the more complicated maneuvers, all you are required to do is learn a couple of rudimentary gameplay mechanics and you’re good to go. Sadly, the game becomes fairly monotonous to play because there isn’t all that much control, and the skating is just too unbelievable.
Boredom sets in quickly. After the initial draw of skating around and blasting grey environments into color wears off, you’re stuck with a series of dull fetch quests and numerous other decidedly less-than-stimulating endeavours. For the most part, you have to get rid of Ministry propaganda, instead replacing it with Wendy’s ads (kind of an odd design decision). The game is just lost within itself; it’s so difficult to want to keep playing because the quest progression is quite uninspired. There is a multiplayer component, but aside from playing it locally, we didn’t have much luck finding others to join us online.
Visually speaking, the game is pretty bland given its strong focus on inspirational colors. Characters are not rendered in particularly eye-catching detail either, and there is plenty of shading issues dotted throughout the game. You’ll hear the same monotonous comments from freed people, and it just leads to even more boring and uninspired moments. The soundtrack is pretty good, and exactly what we’d expect in a skateboarding game. At the end of the day, Shaun White Skateboarding is an odd beast that never really falls into place after the first couple of hours. Sure, there’s fun to be had, but it’s overall mediocre gameplay and boring quests will likely make this ideal cannon fodder for the used games bin at your local videogames store.
-The Final Word-
Shaun White Skateboarding tries valiantly to inspire players by allowing them to transform grey settings into colorful scenes, but the mediocre gameplay, boring quests, and poor visuals ultimately leaves things feeling decidedly uninspired.