We've hit the slopes in FoamPunch's snowboarding title.
Skateboard and snowboard fans had to endure a long and dry spell following the end of the 90s boom. After that long break, skaters were overwhelmed with skateboarding games (Session, Skater XL, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater), while snowboard enthusiasts haven't had their own game for a long time. But that's about to change. Just ahead of spring, Foam Punch is bringing its snowboarding simulator Shredders to Xbox Series consoles and PC.
In this game, we take on the role of an unknown snowboarder and YouTuber who, with his buddy Scotty, makes the fictional ski area of Frozen Wood and the surrounding area unsafe while always looking for the next stunt. PR and scouting lady, Lisa, from the also fictitious snowboarding outfitter 540 Indy, noticed us and with her contacts of various pros, our career quickly picks up speed.
The story develops over 40+ missions and culminates in a major invitational event, a snowboard cross-race. We meet real pro snowboarders, including Jamie Anderson, Zeb Powell, Sebbe De Buck and Marcus Kleveland, some of whom we were able to see at the Olympic Winter Games in front of an idyllic cooling tower backdrop. We only hear their voices, because their faces are hidden behind ski masks and mirrored goggles. In the missions they tell us their tricks and we can go on the slopes with them.
This is an ad:
A mission consists of a main task and two optional challenges. As an example: The main task is to follow Lisa, where to grind on a railing and amass more than 10,000 points would be the additional challenge. The main task is always extremely simple and there is no "star system" with which we unlock further missions. You just do the main task and move on to the next mission.
As for the controls, which actually define the gameplay in this type of game, we control our snowboarder with the left stick and our board with the right. The right trigger lets us jump while the left one cushions our landing. The left and right shoulder buttons in combination with the right stick perform the various grabs. Front and back flips are performed before the jump with the left stick, while we rotate the board horizontally with the right stick. The controls are quite complex, but the missions gradually familiarise us with the scheme. In addition, we sometimes have a snowmobile and electric winches at our disposal, to which we hang on to using pressed shoulder buttons.
Unfortunately, Foam Punch failed to provide us with a list of all the tricks. The required tricks are always displayed beforehand, but only then and only in the respective mission. You also need to remember how a specific trick is performed if you feel like using it later.
This is an ad:
Overall, the gameplay has the right complexity. You have to concentrate on the approach before each jump and you really need to mentally prepare for your tricks. It's also reasonably realistic when looking at what happens in the air (realistic for a pro, of course). The fictional ski resort is divided into seven areas, there are parks with lots of artificial kickers, an industrial area with grind options, a winding village and, of course, fast descents above the tree line with daring jumps.
The look is of course primarily white, a lot of white to be exact. The snowboard parks, with their artificial kickers outlined in pale blue, are a bit reminiscent of Mirror's Edge and this fits well with the gameplay for similar reasons. But a lot is overridden here with blur and the bulky and detailed buildings look a bit like something you'd find in the N64 era. But at high speeds, the descents in the great outdoors are really chic. The effects that our snowboard leave in the snow could be nicer, but overall we get the "wow factor" that you want from a game during rapid descents.
Of course, the pros also bring their clothes with them and brand names are somehow part of this type of sport. We unlock the various equipment items for our snowboarder as the game progresses. Unfortunately, we have no control over the respective colour. Each piece of clothing or piece of equipment has a colour and that's it. So the editor looks more like advertising than a place to customise our snowboarder to our liking.
Shredders also has a multiplayer mode, which the developers are still cautiously calling "Preview" with more content planned in the coming months. We couldn't test the multiplayer beforehand, but when we activate it in the settings (including the crossplay option), we seem to see other snowboarders on the slopes. It is still unclear whether we can go on missions and hunt for points with other players or compete against each other in the only snowboard cross-race (the grand finale). But don't expect too much from this feature for the time being. Which brings me to another gripe: there are no online leaderboards. Seriously? The missions show our best performance so far and that's it. It's a really odd decision for a game that's so much about scoring.
Shredders has a lot of potential. I like the complex controls, which are a bit reminiscent of EA's Skate series, and it's still arcadey enough to be fun as it's not a full-blown hard-hitting sim like Session. The feeling of boundless freedom in the snow is well staged, even if you can clearly see the game's indie origins in some places. The ramblings of our snowboarder and his annoying buddy Scotty, with Lisa and the many pros are nothing special, but at least it's not quite as awkward as it is in Forza Horizon and some other games.
The fact that no hurdles have to be overcome to progress the game is a double-edged sword. It ended up sapping my motivation a bit, as I would have loved to grind my teeth on the optional challenges to unlock new missions. Checking off challenges like that just isn't the same and the lack of online leaderboards makes it worse.
The missions have nice ideas and there are even the odd Forza Horizon-style event race (for example, a race against a delivery truck), but in the end we always have to follow other snowboarders and that causes problems far too often. The snowboarders are always too slow and we often don't see any checkpoints for orientation (if we move too far away from the other snowboarder, the mission fails). The whole thing is made even more difficult by the lack of camera control, because the right stick is used only for the board.
You can tell the developers love snowboarding, but unfortunately the structure of the game isn't really convincing. It remains to be seen whether the multiplayer and the planned improvements can compensate for this. Things like an online ranking list should be relatively easy to add and the potential is there. Shredders will be released on March 17th, and Game Pass subscribers can enjoy the last few days of winter in the snow at no additional cost.
7 / 10
Great controls (except for the missing camera control). Wonderful feeling of freedom. Clear and very tidy design.
No leaderboard. No overview of all tricks. No dynamic time of day/weather conditions. Lame character editor.