Fishlabs attempt a 1080, and come pretty close too….
It’s refreshing that Snowboard hero knows what it wants to be, and that is a great arcade sports experience. It favours thrills over realism, and really, that is exactly what you need in this type of game. As someone who has hit the slopes a few times on a snowboard – with ‘hit’ being the operative word here – I have the bumps and bruises to prove that to have fun in the sport takes patience and hard work. Snowboard Hero then not only saves you the bruising, but lets you pull off tricks that only the Shaun Whites of this world can aspire to.
A snowboarding game is only as good as it’s tilt controls, and thankfully Hero’s feel great, not too loose and not too tight. However, I was a little disappointed that you don’t have full control over your boarder, in that you can only affect their turning (by tilting left or right), and not the angle at which they land or the speed they travel (by tilting forward or back). In fact there is no speed control at all for the rider. But, in an arcade style racer such as this though, this isn’t a deal breaker, and in fact simply allows you to focus on the racing line and on jumps and tricks.
The remaining controls are touch and gesture based. Tap and hold anywhere and your rider will crouch, powering them up like a spring. On hitting a ramp you let go of the screen at it’s peak and your rider will launch in the air. Similarly, you can do this to grind on rails around the courses, though these only need a gentle jump. Once airborne you are now free to pull off tricks. Tap and holding the screen will activate grabs, and where you grab your board depends on where you tap the screen. 180s or more are pulled off by swiping the screen horizontally in the required direction, likewise swiping up or down will activate forward or backward flips. All in the setup is incredibly intuitive and great for both casual and core gamers alike.
These tricks are the basic building blocks for your rider, and various combinations of these will ensure high scores. These scores are key to progressing, allowing you to buy new moves in the shop. Once purchased they are activated by using double finger taps, holds and swipes… and even then only once you pull off enough tricks on a particular run. These special moves gather up huge points though, and will further your career on the slopes even more.
Events range from time trials; where you must get through the gates within, or faster than, the allotted time; to freestyles where getting the most points from tricks as possible is the order of the ay; or, a combination of both. Racing against other characters in both these modes is also available, which generally unlocks them to play.
Snowboard Hero utilises a great star based system, which like many puzzle games, is used as a kind of in-game currency for unlocking new events. Getting one star in an event will ensure you at least unlock the next event, however getting the full three allows you to push forward quicker and unlock more down the line. I like this system as it allows you to play through the game at your own pace, as well as offering more replay-ability to go back and try and crack that earlier event – now that you are more experienced and have purchased better kit and new tricks – to get more stars.
The game features six characters in all, and instead of offering up just different special moves, they are also used as a hub of sorts to different events and courses. Starting out, your character will only get so far, before you must unlock a new character to access the new events and places to visit. It’s a great way to progress and keeps things fresh. Unfortunately though, the characters are a hugely cliched bunch, offering up a funked up cartoon look and feel, complete with annoying and repetitive catchphrases. We’ve seen this all before many times in other extreme sports games, and it’s disappointing that Fishlabs weren’t more original in this regard.
Despite that, the presentation overall is of a high standard. Once again don’t expect realism here, or any fancy pants particle system. What you do get though is a bright and colourful cartoon like mountain environment that runs silky smooth, giving a great sense of speed. Each mountain run is different, and even the same runs don’t get old thanks to multiple paths (speed or trick), as well as halfpipe areas.
Overall then, and Snowboard Hero is a great first stab at Extreme sports for Fishlabs. A few things hold it back from being perfect, such as the lack of more advanced controls for seasoned gamers; an SSX-style free ski mode, no multiplayer for one-on-one racing, and the aforementioned character styling. What it does get right though is offer up a hugely enjoyable, addictive and accessible game, perfect for both quick play sessions and longer career stints.
Snowboard Hero is out now for $4.99. Get it on the
Check out our hands-on video of the game in action at the 7:34 minute mark