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By: Dave Long

On: 11-Oct-2009


Stoked Reviewed

Skate on snow?
 If I was to make a sweeping statement, I would say that the Cool Boarder’s series was among the greatest snowboarding games there ever was, and ever will be! Sadly while my nostalgic memories live on; I have had to move away from such archaic titles and try my hand at what can be done with the current console market.

Stoked is the creation of infant developer Bongfish. While it’s their first attempt in the gaming market; from the off they have tried to grab the bull by the horns and take on the
might of Shaun White Snowboarding.

Similar to Shaun White, Stoked has set its sights on being a serious simulation of real world snowboarding. Now while the theory is there, unfortunately this is instantly where the game falls flat on its face!

The key problem is none of the environments, however beautifully crafted, feel like they are ever likely to see the light of day in the real world. The vast open world environments are devoid of both the fundamentals which make up a ski resort, and any form of life altogether.

While Shaun White provides mountains littered with chair lifts, Stoked provides the player with an on call helicopter to whisk you away to the top of the mountain. Come on guys, I spent a week boarding in Bulgaria this year and I certainly didn’t see anyone with their own personal taxi from the fleet air arm! The fact that there are no communication masts also gives the impression that you have some amazing satellite reception on your mobile phone/mp3 player from which to summon your transportation!

However the lack of ski lifts does help answer the question as to why there are no other boarders on the slopes. After all it’s a mountain, not the heliport at Silverstone on a formula 1 race weekend.

Players could argue that the lack of interaction between potential play mates on the slopes adds to the peace and tranquillity created within the lush powered landscapes. But this isn’t true when your personal whirly bird stalks you from peak to trough; and its rotors are all you can hear amongst the in game music from the virtual mp3 player.

The emptiness doesn’t stop with a lack of boarders. On the mountain, there is very little to do other than complete challenges and once completed – head to the top and beat the score you just set.

While you traverse down the mountain, symbols on your HUD indicate challenge locations. Boarding up to them will give you the chance to begin one of two types of challenge. The first type will give you a list of tricks to perform. The other gives you a points target to reach while meeting the trick criteria e.g. spin or grab.

Stoked is certainly not for anyone new to snowboarding. After completing a brief tutorial, the player is left to fend for themselves and is already expected to know the difference between a nose press and indy tuck-knee. Stoked does feature an in game trick bible, however opening this every 2 minutes to identify the designated trick needed to complete the challenge drastically breaks up the flow of the game.

Stoked uses a control system similar to that of Skate, in which all grabs and tricks are centred on the two analogue sticks. The system itself feels much more natural compared to the clumsy controls of Shaun White; and producing a string of tricks is done with far greater ease. That said, what is positive about the controls, is jarred by the lack of animation within the character model.

The developers have spent very little producing movement, and instead you appear to be trapped within an invisible box as you flip and spin down the mountain. The good thing here is that your lack of manipulation with the surrounding environment can make some challenges much easier as you get stuck on a wall or tree trunk and continuously grind or butter on said object.

Bongfish never envisaged that a player may need to unstrap from their bindings to move around. While Shaun White allowed the player to step off of the board and move around before strapping in and heading off once again, the player is stuck firm to the virtual wood and fibreglass.

This is an issue as some challenges are placed at the top of steep hills, and if you haven’t picked up enough speed in the first place, you cannot climb the hill to reach them. This means that you need to ride the helicopter to the top once again and try and descend to the challenge location.

As previously mentioned the folks at Bongfish have managed to create some great looking scenery. The scenery is lush, the powder looks soft and light, and they have even included a virtual weather system which regularly coats the game’s mountains with fresh snow to hide the rocks underneath.

Sadly looks alone don’t make a good game, and it doesn’t distract the player from the issues which plague the gameplay. Unfortunately while it’s a valiant first try, there is nothing in Stoked which tries to shift Shaun White Snowboarding from its golden pedestal. If there is to be a sequel, Bongfish need to focus on adding some diversity to the challenges, and pay some attention to what makes a bustling ski resort a great place to be.