Shaun White Snowboarding - Road Trip!

November 25, 2008

It’s a well known fact that when it comes to multi-platform games, the Wii often gets stuck with the short end of the stick with tacked-on, arm-flailing controls. This is not the case with Shaun White’s Road Trip. Breaking free of the mold, Road Trip offers a drastically different design from its HD counterpart, and implements a highly unique control scheme that takes full advantage of Wii Balance Boards that are now sitting in people’s closets collecting dust. Is this one ride you can’t afford to miss?
Road Trip forgoes the go anywhere, open-ended structure found on in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game, and simply lets you pick and choose events from a stylized menu. This tried-and-true formula is reminiscent of the late, and revered, SSX series.

Nine riders make up the roster, though you’ll only start out with two. Strategy plays a descent role when selecting both a rider and camera person, who shadows you and captures your run. They aren’t simply confined to aesthetics. Both are equipped with stats, encouraging experimentation since the right combo can lead to bigger and better scores.

As the title suggests, you’ll travel across the globe, unlocking new venues while uncovering longer and more complex runs throughout Canada, Peru, Japan, and Switzerland--with your ultimate goal taking you to Utah, where you’ll finally meet up with Shaun White himself. Considering it’s his game, it’s odd that it takes four hours before you finally have the opportunity to play as him.

Throughout each venue you’ll compete across a handful of events, fulfilling dare goals to move on. Generic and easily obtainable objectives include getting a certain trick score, or collecting X number of trash cans. Respect goals, though not required, are great for the hardcore audience, since they push you to do more. Events include everything you’d expect: races, tricking, half-pipes, big airs, boardercross, and rail jams. Outside of the half-pipe’s big trick events, most of the objectives have the tendency to bleed into one another and feel basically the same.

There’s no online functionality, but multiplayer split-screen is included. Teaming up with a bud in co-op is a lot of fun, but it’s annoying that unlocked characters don’t transfer over from single-player. You’ll have to play through the campaign all over again to get any kind of roster. A few versus modes, including battle racing, and trick contest, support four people, and serve as the party modes. And because two balance boards cannot be connected at once on the Wii, hot seat mode saves ghost riders so you can switch in and out with a friend, and still compete against each other using the board.

After a few short hours the credits roll, selling the game a little short. But more difficult challenges unlock thereafter, prompting an instant return to the game. In that respect, Ubisoft did a fine job appealing to both the casual crowd with simple goals, and ease of use, but didn’t fail to neglect those looking for a challenge. With plenty of multi-player options, and enough events to keep you busy, Road Trip is well-balanced and robust.

The balance board is the real star here. Carving, grinding, and tricking are all mapped to how you place your weight on the board. It feels completely organic, and realistic. Leaning back on your heels produces a smooth frontside carve, while putting your weight on your toes draws a backside arc. It’s incredible how realistically carving is replicated. Performing front and back flips is as easy as placing your weight on the proper end of the board as you take flight. Again, it makes sense and is handled well.

The A and B buttons on the remote serve as your grab tricks. We’re not sure why we can’t physically move the Wii remote to the right location for grabs, but the buttons still work moderately well.

If you don’t have a balance board, the remote is your only other option. By holding it out in the palm of your hand like a fictional board, you twist it to carve, and lift up to jump. It works just fine, but pales in comparison to the level of interaction with the Balance Board.

The board does have its share of limitations. The biggest obstacle is lining yourself up for a jump, since it’s easy to accidentally shift your weight just prior to airtime. Unwanted jumps are also common practice due to a shift in weight, or realigning your feet. The half-pipe’s endless tricking is the most problematic though, as you’ll easily lose your footing midway through, leaving your character twisting and flailing. With enough practice, these problems become less and less prominent.

With over 25 aerial tricks to perform, you have a hefty arsenal of moves. But given the slight limitations of the board, you’ll likely only see about a dozen of those. If you want to really score big numbers, the remote is the sure way to go, since you can perform tricks much faster. But then it’s nowhere near as fun.

Opting for a Sunday morning cartoon vibe, as opposed to a photo realistic look, was a wise choice. The game plays off of its visuals well. Textures aren’t exactly mind-blowing, and the slopes are often baren, but the sacrifices make for a solid framerate, at least.

Little noticeable touches pop out and make a big difference, too. Whether it’s when riders get draped in snow after a nasty spill, or the camera tumbles breaking up the video feed, there’s been some attention paid to the visuals in a Wii game for a change. Characters have convincing voice work, for what little there is, and all forgo the typical bland stereotypes you see so often in games like this. The music is also upbeat and compliments the gameplay well.

Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip’s use of the balance board proves that it’s more than just a tool for getting in shape. If you plan on picking the game up, and do not have a Balance Board, then drop the score a whole point. Yes, it makes that much of a difference. If this is a first glimpse at the future of games utilizing it, then it’s a very bright future indeed.