There used to be a time when European gamers would get games quite some time after their North American counterparts, but with this generation, that game has been significantly shortened - now it's only a few days. Some games are still bound by old rules though, one of which is Stoked: Big Air Edition, a game that was released in North America during 2009. Don't let time deceive you though, as this snowboarding title still has more than enough content and gameplay functionality to allow it to stand against today's releases.
As soon as you kick things off, you'll be tasked with designing your own snowboarder. The customisation options aren't going to blow you away, but there's a ton of licenced clothing, so despite limit selections in the facial region, you have a lot more freedom to deck your guy out with the right kit - you can even change your snowboard bindings. From here, the game pretty much throws you in the deep end.
There are a ton of different mountains to board down, with the first being Almirante Nieto in Chile. Here you'll find some basic tutorials, but they barely even scratch the surface and everything can be quite overwhelming off the bat; both from a gameplay and content perspective. Even contemplating how much different things there are to do, even on one mountain, is mind boggling - the menus with events just keep on going and going.
It's probably best to just start off with a Freeride though, so you get a feel for the mountain. From here, a nice touch is that if you find specific events on the way down, you'll be able to just do them on the fly. Events generally revolve around performing tricks, although there are some which focus on racing too. But even if you think you've done all of the events while going down in a Freeride session (which in itself is an event), trawling though the menus will tell you otherwise.
Quite a lot of the events, initially, are quite simple. You'll often have to perform two separate tricks, which aren't all that complicated. Maybe it will ask you to do a Frontside 360, and a Crail grab. What's nice is that it will often tell you what you need to do to perform said grab, very useful considering how complicated the controls can get.
What's strange, is that despite the controls making perfect sense, from a technical and logical perspective, that doesn't mean they make perfect sense from a practical perspective. Essentially, the two triggers control different sides of the body, and do different things depending on the situation you find yourself on. For example, if you're just standard boarding, holding the left trigger will wind you up, allowing you to perform a quick spin to the right, and vice versa. On the other side of the fence, when you're doing grabs, the left trigger allows you to perform grabs with the left hand, with the right trigger doing right-handed grabs. Holding down both allows for double handed grabs.It probably all sounds perfectly fine at the moment, but then you have to factor in that you'll often need to hold and remove these at a split-second's notice. For example, if you are asked to do a right-handed grab, but on a right-turning spin. So, you'll have to hold down the left trigger to spin and then quickly shift to the right trigger when you leave the ground. It might not seem that tricky, but at the same time you have to use the left analogue to control your spin rate, and the right analogue to choose which grab you want to do - it can become rather confusing. Practice makes perfect though and after a while the system will become a bit more manageable, if still a little tricky.
What the system does offer though, is scope for a ton of different moves. There's a grab mapped to each of the digital directions available on the analogue stick - the main grabs are mapped to up, down, left and right, while there are others mapped to diagonals. That's all handled very well, and performing a 2x Backflip Japan feels rather sweet.
Grinding, on the other hand, feels very cumbersome and is often quite frustrating. The game's Ollie system doesn't match-up well, and if you are slightly out of line, you'll just fall off or hit the obstacle next to what you're supposed to be grinding. This then leads to further calamity, as the game's spawning system isn't the best. If you hit a wall, for example, it will constantly spawn you back in front of the wall and it's not like you can reverse, so you keep hitting it repeatedly. Not a deal breaker for standard events, but for events where you have a limited number of bails, it's annoying.
As you progress through the campaign, you'll gain Influence Points, with more Influence being dolled out for doing things like, beating a Pro, or doing really well during a Photo Op challenge. As you get more Influence Points, you'll unlock more items for your boarder and you'll even get the chance to get some new sponsors - if you can pass their tests, of course.
Graphically the game is pretty decent. Snow is simulated in a reasonable manner, and the landscapes are quite nice - especially in their variety. Day/night effects are implemented, but sometimes they detract from the experience as at a certain time of day, the screen goes almost black - very difficult when trying to grind and/or avoid oncoming obstacles.
As mentioned above, the game has a ton of replay value. Even completing all of the tasks on one mountain will take a considerable amount of time, and there are seven mountains in total. Add to this online play and leaderboards, and it's easy to see that this game can be a real time sink - especially if you master the control system.
Despite being released considerably later in Europe than North America, Stoked: Big Air Edition is still a great title for fans of the snowboarding genre. It offers a complex, but rewarding control scheme and there are tons of things to do. It doesn't always come across as a smooth experience, but time hasn't dampened its quality.