Skateboarding games have been a mixed bag throughout the years, suffering in ways that no other 'sports' games has suffered. Trying hard to mix the joys of real-world boarding and fantasy video game possibilities, most of the recent additions to this genre have fallen flat. Real tricks and stunts mixed in heavily with impossible situations or settings are the norm for such a genre, and every skateboarding game tries to offer a unique take on the same equation. So what does Shaun White bring to the table? Originality, first and foremost; a visual boarding experience that's certainly enjoyable on some levels. Unfortunately, it just isn't enough.
Much like every other 'boarding' game out there, Shaun White is all about sticking it to 'the man', being yourself, and looking sweet while you do both. After some quick character customization, players get tossed into a grey dull world that is brought to life as the player performs tricks and accomplishes stunts and quests. Boring grey men and women will spring to life as the players land near them, and it's certainly a visual treat to watch. This artistic colorful awakening serves as the entire turning point for the game's sparse plot, meeting and awakening new individuals to learn new tricks and find new places to unlock.
It's certainly interesting to a point, but it's held back by a lot of flaws; the most obvious of which being the game's skateboarding main gameplay components. Players move with the left stick, and can perform all tricks, spins, grabs and grinds with the right. A jump button exists for anyone who's not too comfortable with the idea of using two sticks for everything, but overall the entire game is run from the analog. Nothing wrong with that per say, it's just that the moves themselves are nothing to get excited over. In fact, for a game with so much color and style in world design there's a surprisingly large lack of animation in the character itself.
Everything from riding the imaginary rails to creating ramps has a certain dull quality to it, lacking the same flair and enthusiasm that's poured into the world design. If a character misses a trick, or would potentially fall to hurt itself they simply stop before any accident would occur and the player can get back to rolling again. Trick titles, points, and connections are tossed out lazily with zero enthusiasm, leaving little excitement in creating or landing the trick itself. Additionally, the world design is more oriented on the questing portion of the game itself, providing ample areas to complete objectives but not really giving the player any real feeling of exploration and world interaction. It makes the entire game feel extremely planned out, with very little room to simply enjoy the world itself.
The result is a game that actually manages to go against everything that the main storyline is attempting to preach. Dull character design, a story we've heard before, and a world that only feels imaginative and creative in short bursts make it hard for anyone to take Shaun White seriously here. Almost subtly offensive is the way certain franchises have wormed their way into the game, springing to life in dull grey shops as players pour color into the world with every grind or jump. As if a skating paradise would not be complete without a good Burger King; the presence of the 'the man' is almost felt tenfold as a result.
Sound and visuals are Shaun White Skateboarding's only real success here, as the game certainly makes a colorful impression on anyone playing even for a short while. It's a shame too, because the idea of bringing color to a flat world is something that has really yet to be expressed in any kind of sports medium, and with a little more energy and pizzazz things could have been extremely enjoyable. The game's soundtrack shares the same fate unfortunately, being enjoyable to listen but on the same page failing to make any sort of a real impact.
So in the end Shaun White Skateboarding sits on an odd precipice. On one hand, it's certainly one of the more creative games out there, both colorful and entertaining in small doses. On the other, it's plagued by a boggling amount of design issues. Simplistic controls, boring quests and challenges, and counter-intuitive world design make it extremely hard to keep the controller in your hand and ask for more. It's a shame really, because there is certainly a lot of potential that lies within this skateboard title - enough to suggest that a developer with a little more gusto could do an absolutely fantastic sequel. As it stands right now however, Shaun White Skateboarding fails to deliver to anyone outside perhaps his most dedicated fan.