Can Shaun White and company survive the transition from snowboarding to skateboarding?
Shaun White Skateboarding is the third entry in Ubisoft's Shaun White series, and the first one to delve into the Winter Olympic Gold Medalist's other sport of choice: skateboarding. All of the pieces necessary for a quality entry in the genre are present, but the final product is hollow, lacking much of the creativity and discovery that made the early Tony Hawk games so much fun.
There is a plot and a de Blob-esque hook in this game. Shaun White and his teenage pals stumble upon a colorless city, and they decide to help out all the radical people who are getting their buzz harshed by some sort of evil politician. Basically, it gives you an excuse to romp through different levels while completing challenges and occasionally activating transformations that turn the drab surroundings into colorful, skateable areas. As cool as this may sound, the challenges are pretty lame, never evolving past the likes of "Score this many points" and "Collect that many gemstones." Also, the lack of any sort of level-wide goals makes exploring levels pretty pointless.
The level design is generally uninspired to boot. Outside of the transformations, which are cool, the levels are inorganically meshed. While past skateboarding games have done a good job at making levels seem somewhat organic (or have the conceit of being a skate park), Shaun White Skateboarding just feels like a mess of rails and ramps clumsily put together.
Even the act of tricking feels very unfulfilling. With the Wii Remote and Nunchuk combination, you press the A and/or B buttons and flick the Wii Remote in different directions to do flip and grab tricks. Grinding is done by ollieing (the skateboarding word for jumping) near a rail; you keep your balance by tilting the Wii Remote back and forth. Outside of grinding, the controls all feel weird. The motion controls for tricking aren't that precise, making performing specific tricks very difficult. Shaun White Skateboarding also features Balance Board controls, but they aren't fun. It doesn't feel very responsive, and having to perform tricks with the Wii Remote while balancing on the board gives you that 'rubbing your belly while patting your head' feeling.
Regardless of the controls, the vanilla gameplay just isn't engaging. The baffling linear design of each level completely nixes the joy and fun of level exploration, making the game feel more guided. There are also some competitive two-player modes that are mildly entertaining, but they feel like nothing more than throwaway additions.
The graphics aren't anything to write home about, which isn't a bad thing because it runs smoothly. The soundtrack is, for me, good, featuring bands such as Wolfmother, Motion City Soundtrack, KISS, NOFX, and Weezer. You unlock some of the songs as you complete challenges. You can also unlock new decks, clothes, and characters along the way.
Shaun White Skateboarding has a good hook with the transforming environments, but the bland level design and unsatisfactory gameplay make it, at best, a mediocre skateboarding game. Still, it is likely one of the best skateboarding games on Wii, but that's more because of the weak competition. You're better off picking up an old GameCube copy of a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater game than wasting your time on this insipid title.