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Shaun White Skateboarding


Color me unimpressed...
Shaun White Skateboarding is quite the romp into a colorless world governed by the nefarious monarchy known at the Ministry. Bordering on the line between ridiculous and slightly serious, this skateboarding title from Ubisoft puts players into the shoes of a Shaun White follower. Shaun is unavailable to play at the start of the loose narrative, specifically because the evil crew running the Ministry has locked up poor Shaun because he's too much of a character for their straight laced, bland society. Using the same black and white technique found in EA' The Saboteur with the plot line of Jet Grind Radio (oh how I still love you Dreamcast), you are tasked with returning color to the city (New Harmony) by unlocking the creativity of it's inhabitants through inspirational grinds and enlightening kickflips. The narrative is very silly, but it does work most of the time. The developer occasionally attempts to veer the story back into more meaningful overtones, but it doesn't really work for this type of playful storyline.

shaun white skateboarding trick halfpipe

Tasking with landing tricks all over New Harmony to reach the hearts and minds of the citizens, landing them allows you to earn "flow" points. This paints the city in color and wakes up the brainwashed public. You also have the ability to shape the world as you skate with blue-green rails. Do you want to reach the second story awning of that building? Reshape the platform underneath it to get higher air. You use the control stick to send the rail into different directions and you have to balance the direction you want to go with the tricks you are trying to pull off while riding. That being said, riding rails is incredibly forgiving in terms of balancing and it's actually difficult to fail.

There is a huge pacing problem with the game as it's slowly transformed from a free-form skate where you want style of game into completing structured goals in confined spaces. This tedious shift in the game's design rips out the part of the game that was so entertaining, using the controls to mold the city into your own private skate park. There's also a horrifically frustrating marble mini-game that's introduced to pretend that you are hacking something. You will spend far too much time trying to get past those mini-game puzzles than actually skating.

shaun white skateboarding shaping rail

Once the main campaign is complete, you can venture into the multiplayer for some online skating fun (assuming you can find anyone to play with). There are 4 modes in multiplayer: Free Skate, Shaping Battle, Go With The Flow and Ministry vs. Rising. Shaping Battle pits you against other players in reshaping the level to gain the most flow points. Go With The Flow is basically just a competition to rack up the most flow points with tricks (also can be played with teams). Finally, Ministry versus Rising has one team competing to cover the level in color and the other trying to snuff it all out. My main problem with the multiplayer was the lack of people out there to go up against, but the matches that I did play were all pretty smooth.

Graphics

  • If you are looking for graphic realism, there's not much to be found in Shaun White Skateboarding. The level designs aren't particularly unique compared to other skating titles and the texture work is fairly bland. The character models aren't animated as other skateboarding titles as well. There's also a stuttering problem on the PS3 that pops up from time to time within New Harmony. There's also little effort in selling the "color transformation" of the city once you complete tasks in a specific section of town. It seems like the developers would have gotten more bombastic with designing amazing color shifts to match the zany story, but alas, transitions are subtle.

shaun white skateboarding impressing new harmony

Audio

  • Thumbs up on the voice work in Shaun White Skateboarding. I'm typically a critic of skaters lending voices to games, but this collection of voice actors really worked with the limited material they had to work with. The musical selections are also excellent; many tunes that stick with you after playing a couple hours of the game. The ambient sound work in the city was pretty poor though. I realize that the lifeless city inhabitants need to be inspired to become animated, but I felt like it was a ghost town at times.

Conclusion

In terms of technical performance, this game is fairly solid. But you aren't getting the simulation style gameplay found in the Skate series or even the all-arcade style of the Tony Hawk series. In fact, the physics system is probably the most forgiving I've ever experienced in a skateboarding game. Unfortunately, the game fails in selling the main story and makes the game a chore to play rather than something that's supposed to be entertaining. In addition, the puzzles tied into the objectives come off as boring and the replay value is ham stringed by the lack of players skating online. If you absolutely love skateboarding games, consider renting Shaun White Skateboarding over the weekend and see if it's your cup of tea. Otherwise, wait until the developers put more effort into building a more captivating world to explore in the inevitable sequel.



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