Review: Snowboard Riot (WiiWare)

Is Hudson's Snowboard Riot a riot to play, or just a wipe-out?

There's no denying that Hudson is one of the more talented developers on WiiWare. All of their games to date have done much to impress and show other devs how it’s done. In Snowboard Riot they have turned their hand to creating a racing game with the added bonus that you can use items to get revenge on fellow boarders. The question is, does it live up to the high standards Hudson have already established on the WiiWare service? Read on to find out.

Upon start-up, you will find four save spots, each with a corresponding friend code spot. This is a nice feature if you’re not the only gamer in the house. While the game options are fairly limited, they work well. There’s a Nintendo WFC option for online play and a Stand Alone mode for offline play. You will also find a 29 page tutorial, three difficulty options, and the ability to view past play results. There are four racers to choose from; two males and two females, and you can select basic gear for each, like caps, goggles, and outfits. You also have your choice of four courses to race on, and each race lasts three laps.

The Stand Alone mode is a one or two person offline game. The multiplayer option features a vertical split screen mode which works well enough, depending on your television set up, and you can select between Battle and Stoic race modes, with the main difference being that there are no weapons in the Stoic Mode. There is also a Time Attack mode for one player to race against the clock. The offline multiplayer works fairly well and features computer opponents to keep the game full.

The Battle mode is just what it sounds like, an all out battle against three other riders. There are over ten areas to obtain power-ups on each lap and the overabundance of power-up locations means never playing long without attacking someone or being attacked. While having access to constant power-ups sounds appealing, it creates a reliance on power-ups with less focus on racing skill. Available power-ups include five red items that can be shot using the B button: freeze, power disc, homing, lock on and napalm. There are also seven blue items that can be activated with the C button: turbo, speed down, barrier, gauge down, high jump, icicle and mine. In addition, you have an SP Gauge that fills up as you land tricks. Shaking the Wii Remote will activate this power up and cause the rider to speed up and knock down anyone in the way.

Stoic race mode features gates throughout the course that will help speed you up. While there are no weapons in Stoic mode, the SP Gauge is available. Leaving the SP Gauge in this mode was an odd choice as it adds a bit of battle to Stoic mode.

On-line play is also featured in Snowboard Riot and it works really well. While finding an on-line match can be hit or miss, once connected, you can stay with those players for as long as you want via a continue system. It is hard to tell what the longevity of the online play will be, but the option for friend’s codes is present, securing a long-term solution for players wanting to play on-line.

Wii Balance Board support is included as well but it really doesn’t make a lot of sense in a game where speed is of the utmost importance. After going through a short calibration process for the balance board, you can use it to work your way down the slopes instead of the traditional analogue stick. The problem is the balance board is not as precise as the normal control options and will do little more than slow you down in this game. Standard controls work well enough so there is no need to utilize the balance board other than for novelty reasons.

The play control itself is plenty responsive; in fact maybe a bit too much so for those times when you find yourself speeding down some of the more intricate tracks. It's quite possible that Hudson was trying to give the game a very authentic feeling in the way your snowboarder handles, but it can make it quite difficult to manoeuvre at those times when a sudden drop-off appears out of nowhere. Even the shooting can be quite tricky to get a grip on until you get a good feel for how it works. It's almost as if Hudson couldn't decide whether to give the game more of a simulation-style feel or an arcade style of play. The result is a control scheme that will require quite a bit of practice to fully come to grips with and even then there will be some luck involved.

The graphics, on the other hand, are actually decent for a Wiiware game. The courses have some detail to them and are easy to view while speeding through. There is a lot of white snow with the occasional tree to avoid, but don't look for a lot of variety in the scenery. There are also some caves but again, this doesn’t really change the look much. Even the characters have a very generic look and feel that sometimes makes them feel like they're more of a tacked on extra than an integral part of the game. The 40MB file size limit obviously played a role in the sometimes bland look of the game, but you can't help but still feel that Hudson could have thrown a bit more variety into the mix.

The music is also very limited, featuring a hard rock song at the title screen and then one song per race track. Most of the songs are nothing more than generic synthesized techno that tends to become annoying within a short amount of time. The sound effects aren't much better and don't add a whole lot to the overall audio experience. You might not go so far as turning the sound completely off, but the thought will likely cross your mind a few times if you find yourself playing the game for any extended period of time.

Conclusion

Snowboard Riot is quite an average game on the whole. If you are able to connect to other gamers online, you will certainly have some fun. However, you need to have a high frustration tolerance if you are going to play this game. It is the type where the races are usually close and the chance to win or lose it all at the end is almost always a possibility. While this can be fun when it works your way, it is incredibly frustrating to be on the losing end. This game would have benefited from a reduced number of item pick-ups to help make the balance between fighting and racing more equal. As is, Snowboard Riot is an entertaining game but with its share of missed opportunities.

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