Snowboarding has come a long way. Once considered a niche extreme sport that was filled with fearless thrill-seekers rather than real athletes, snowboarding is finally getting the attention it deserves. The rise in popularity is fueled by many factors, but there has been one transcendent figure who has been the face of American snowboarding for several years. Shaun White, Carrot-Top’s long lost brother, is snowboarding’s version of Tony Hawk. Like that king of skateboarding, Shaun White has his own gaming franchise too. While the reception of the console versions has been mixed, Shaun White Snowboarding: Origins tries to deliver an iPhone snowboarding experience that’s worthy of its name.
Origins is an original experience made from the ground up for the iPhone, so the control scheme is intuitive and responsive, for the most part. Tilting your iPhone controls your character, and contextual controls for spins, flips, and grabs appear once your guy goes airborne. Using a virtual D-pad on the left side, pulling off spins and flips is awesome based on the level of precision that’s at your fingertips. Grabs are pulled off by holding sections of an outlined board on the right side of the screen, and again, it feels good.
He’s a mogul mogul.
Where the controls avalanche downhill is on grinding rails that are placed throughout the game’s four courses. Rails are like magnets, so you’ll get stuck to them just for getting too close. In another curious design decision, maintaining your balance on rails is also controlled by tilt controls. The sensitivity on this mechanic isn’t tuned well as we had issues maintaining grinds, and it became clear that some type of touch slider would be been more functional and less frustrating.
Designed to be a race against the mountain and elements, there isn’t any live competition between real or AI boarders. The goal is to earn a huge score fueled by trick combinations, successfully navigating through gates, and having a great time in general. Depending on your tastes, this can be a good or bad thing, but we found boarding solo very clinical and, at times, boring. OpenFeint, the community networking platform, helps to alleviate the lack of competition by offering achievements, leaderboards, and challenging ghost times, but it’s not the same.
Stardust on on the slopes.
By any reasonable standard, Origins is lacking in content. There are only four courses based in countries like Spain, Chile, Japan, and the USA, but no career mode or multiplayer mode. Origins also contains no real-life snowboarders, including the cover boy himself. Add all that up, and you have no real reason to keep coming back once you’ve seen it all.
On the positive side, the presentation is on point. Origins has slick menus, pretty graphics, and smooth animation all across the board. But, you’ll also see rampant issues of poor collision detection and character clipping. You’ll fall from boulders that you almost hit, go right through grind rails, and other little annoyances that showcase the flaws in the game engine. These problems alone aren’t enough to spoil the action, but it’s definitely noticeable.
Like the console versions of Shaun White Snowboarding, Origins comes across half-baked. For every good aspect, there’s an equally bad one that sours the positivity. With issues pertaining to the lack of content, uneven controls, and weird graphical glitches, it’s hard to recommend this game to the general public. Only patient and hardcore snowboarding fans should attempt these slopes.