Saturday, January 12

Review: Snowboarding The Next Phase [Nintendo Switch eShop]


Ever since the heyday that snowboarding games had back in the days of 1080 and the likes of SSX Tricky I’ve been a fan of the genre. The satisfying feeling of control cutting turns, taking jumps, and doing some cool acrobatic tricks while in the air is hard to resist. As popular as games like that were at the time they then pretty well disappeared, which I always considered a shame. Now we have Snowboarding The Next Phase, a title that absolutely looks and feels the part, just repetition and a lack of more ambition hold it back from sticking the landing.


Starting with what it gets right there’s no denying that in terms of visuals the game is spot on. Sporting a clean and colorful aesthetic style, your snowboarder and gear very much look the part whether standing still or in action. Tricks are pretty easy to pull off, with a variety of grabs mapped to the face buttons and spins and flips being as easy as moving the joystick in the direction you want to rotate. Landing requires some skill but errs on the side of being approachable, not requiring a ton of technique but if you want to maximize your score you do need to try your best to get yourself into the right position. I will note that at times I would get really odd trajectories off of my jumps, going almost sideways at times and not at all in the direction I wanted to, but it wasn’t so often as to be a major issue. Also, while I normally don’t get into this territory one thing that’s hard to miss is that with as many looks as snowboarders have its hard to miss that they’re all variations of while males, without a female or another complexion in sight… a bit of a misstep.


So yes, in terms of the core fundamentals this title gets it right, it’s just that with so much on the table that works it makes it a shame that it’s generally so repetitive. Calling what you’re going down mountains would be deceptive, as your tracks are pretty well all quite short and somewhat narrow as well. There’s some variety, with different paths you can take and jump off of, but most of the time it feels like just as you were getting into a groove you’re done. For each run you’ll be given 3 objectives, whether grabbing colored geocache markers, doing X number of specific tricks, or getting a target score. At first the works well enough as you get accustomed to things but then you begin to realize that though the objectives will continue to change and get a bit more demanding that’s all there really is. Aside from not having skill challenges like a slalom or something more racing oriented, there’s really not a great opportunity for freestyling very much, especially since the tricks it demands that you do are often far less ambitious than what you’ll quickly be pulling off. Doing 2 forward flip or 360 tricks when you’re doing doubles or 1080 grabs with relative ease feels limiting and like the game’s holding you back.


For the price the level of polish on this title is impressive and if you set your expectations within its limits it’s a pretty strong experience with quite a lot of content. Unfortunately, if you’ve got nostalgia for the more complete titles of years past this likely will only tease you with glimpses of those experiences but never really reaching those heights from a lack of ambition. I hope to see a new title in this series return that tackles those challenges. Pretty well all the pieces are there, they just need to now be taken to the next level.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Looks fantastic
  • In general the feel of control is good
  • Though the courses are short they do have some variety to them

Cons:
  • Generally focused on and limited to stunts, missing opportunities for more varied play
  • Some quirks at times off of jumps, going in odd directions inexplicably
  • In an era where inclusion is important the monochromatic all-male cast is hard to ignore