Duuuuuuuuuuuude! Yeah, Shaun White is soooooo awesome! It's, like, full of awesomeness! It's so awesome, it's super awesome! And so on and so forth. Yes, you're going to have to put up with snowboarding street speak throughout Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip on the Wii, but, somewhat surprisingly, it's actually worth it, because, while this is no SSX, it's good, no-nonsense fun.
And it's better than Shaun White on 360 and PS3, by quite a margin, too. Tom gave that game a 6/10 in his review, criticising the overly awkward controls and laborious open world travelling. Road Trip doesn't suffer from any of that, making it the definitive version of the game.
And it's better than EA's frustrating Wii skateboarding sim Skate It, too. The controls, while not perfect in that they still suffer from classic Wii motion sensing unresponsiveness, are much tighter. Where EA packed tons of tricks onto the Wii Remote, Ubisoft Montreal has kept things simple, requiring only flicks and shakes in combination with the A and B buttons. It all makes for a much more fun, and intuitive, control system.
The fact that the game doesn't support the Nunchuck is evidence of Ubisoft's simple control philosophy. Movement is governed by simply pointing the Wii Remote forward and twisting it left or right to turn. Holding down the A button will cause your boarder to lean forward and pick up speed. Pressing B will cause him/her to slow down. These simple rules govern everything else you do in the game.
Complexity, and fun, is added by the trick system. Say, for example, you approach an obvious ramp while flying down a mountain. Just before you hit it, flicking the Wii Remote up will cause your boarder to crouch then launch off of it, allowing for plenty of air time during which the Wii Remote can be twisted and shaken to trigger different tricks in combination with the A and B buttons.
You're able to grind, too, on appropriate parts of each course. Here, the game will automatically make your boarder jump and stick, which might be considered intrusive hand-holding by some. From there, you need to keep your balance by twisting the Wii Remote, and are able to jump from one line to another, as well as do tricks. It's not particularly realistic, and these sections are the most unresponsive in terms of actually getting your boarder to do what you want them to, but it is fun.
You also have access to special cameraman powers, triggered when you fill your respect meter by doing tricks. On any given track, you pick one boarder and one cameraman, each with their own stats and special abilities. When the meter is full, a press on the Wii Remote d-pad will trigger the cameraman's special power, most helpfully a speed boost. This adds a whiff of strategy to the game, but it's too faint to bother yourself with.
Road Trip's controls do suffer in that the Wii's motion sensing technology isn't as responsive as simply pressing a button on a control pad and watching an animation, but they're still loads better than Skate It's. You will, more often than not, trigger the trick you actually want to do it (but not always). There is still a feeling that your boarder doesn't do exactly what you want him/her to do exactly when you want them to do it, but as far as Wii games that rely on waving the Wii Remote about go, it's a solid effort, and will please more than it frustrates. The game's also quite hard, but in a good way. When you collapse in a heap because you've landed on your head, or your board is facing the wrong way relative to the direction you're travelling, it's usually because you mistimed or misjudged the trick. Practice makes perfect, and there is a genuine sense of reward as you get to grips with the controls and start to build up score multipliers as you link together tricks.
Playing Road Trip with the Wii Balance board is also much better than playing Skate It with the Wii Fit peripheral. Steering is governed by shifting your weight from in front of you to behind you from a side-on position relative to your telly. Leaping off of ramps is a case of applying pressure with both feet then lifting yourself off the Balance Board without actually jumping. The different tricks are triggered by applying pressure to different spots on the board in combination with the A and B button on the Wii Remote. It works well, and, if you allow yourself to get into it (leaning forward will make your boarder lean forward and pick up speed), you'll almost be convinced that Road Trip is the game that makes forking out for the Board in the first place worth it. Almost. Unfortunately, you never feel as if you have ultimate control, and swift and accurate steering is still incredibly difficult (and a pain on the lower back). It's a solid effort on Ubisoft Montreal's part, but playing the game with the Wii Remote only is still the way to go.
The game's lightweight single-player mode presents a series of tracks with associated challenges (race against the clock, collect a certain number of pick-ups, score a certain number of trick points) that need to be completed in order to unlock new tracks and challenges. The "story" involves you controlling a growing collective of snowboarders who travel the world hot on the heels of Shaun White himself, one of the game's unlockable characters. As you complete challenges you'll open up new countries to snowboard in, as well as receive some hilarious emails and messages. One email asks for your bank details so the sender can share his enormous wealth with you. Post-modern (we think).
While the pace of the single-player mode races along almost as speedily as your boarder, it won't keep your attention for too long. Indeed longevity is one of our biggest gripes with the game. There's no character creation mode, so there's no sense of embarking on a snowboarding career as such. We've got no particular gripe with this approach, especially when you consider that it's pretty much a total failure with Skate It, but it does serve to disconnect you somewhat from what's going on. However, while you collect what are called mementos as you progress, there's little else to aim for bar beating your previous scores, which results in a whistle-stop tour around the world competing in challenge after challenge, and little else.
Beyond the single-player, the three multiplayer modes just about make the Wii worth dusting off when friends pop round. Four players can play the game cooperatively or competitively via a split screen mode, which is somewhat barmy fun. If you haven't got four Wii Remotes there's a pass the Wii Remote option which turns the game into a snow-filled rally. But, as with many Wii games, there's no online features whatsoever, which is a real disappointment. There aren't even any online leaderboards to aspire to, which is an especially unfortunate omission when you consider how light weight the game feels.
Perhaps the best thing about Road Trip, though, are the excellent graphics. While the draw distance obviously can't compare with the 360 and PS3 versions of the game, we like the almost cartoon-style vistas more, and it performs better from a frame rate point of view. The boarders look great, with convincing crash and trick animations. The courses, albeit all very white contain an impressive amount of detail and vary from location to location. Snow hitting the camera when you bite the dust is a great touch, as are the sporadic appearances of animals running down the mountain as you fly by. The sense of speed is great, especially when you hold down the A button or lean forward on the Balance Board. And when you gain some really big air, Road Trip rekindles memories of Disney Interactive Studios' tremendous quad-bike game Pure.
Games like Road Trip show exactly what Nintendo's console is capable of producing when developers actually bother to take the hardware seriously. It makes you realise how half-arsed an effort most Wii games are on a graphical front. Sigh.
With games like Shaun White, that are so entrenched in street cred cool, a banging track list is a must, and here Road Trip doesn't disappoint. Yes there's some stuff we've never heard of (Social Distortion anyone?), as well as some stuff we wish we'd never heard of (Tings Tings, Calvin Harris), but there's some genuine musical quality in there. There's a Bob Dylan track, for example. That's right, we said Bob Dylan.
The rest of the audio is a mixed affair. For us, the snowboarding slang started to grate almost before the first line of voice over dialogue finished, but the snowboarding sound effects are superb, with great snow and board impact sounds. The production values, overall, are great for a Wii game.
Road Trip is the best snowboarding game we've played in a long while (at least since 2005's Amped 3). It's better than Shaun White on 360 and PS3, too. It's no SSX, or 1080, but it's about as good as it gets for virtual versions of the sport these days. Playing with the Balance Board is OK, at least in comparison to other games, but don't pick one up just for this. Playing with the Wii Remote has its flaws, too, but they don't prevent Road Trip from being anything but a solid and fun experience. The biggest problem with the game is that it's short and almost throwaway, with little depth or replayability. Apart from that, it's, like, totally awesome, or something.