Two video games and a second Olympic gold medal later, and Shaun White might just be the biggest name in snowboarding — and certainly one of the richest. Not as many people will recall that he is also a competitive skateboarder, with three medals at the X Games to his name in addition to a bunch of Winter X Games medals, making him the only person to earn medals in both the Summer and Winter X Games. Since the age of nine, White has also a personal friend of iconic skater Tony Hawk. With all of this information, it is less of a surprise that Ubisoft's franchise based on him has chosen to swap out the boots for grip tape, and try their hand at a skate-based game.
Fortunately, "Tony Hawk clone" wasn't in the vocabulary for Shawn White Skateboarding, which takes a stylized, reality-defying route more in line with Sega's classic Jet Set Radio series, while going at angles entirely its own in a single, open world. The game uses skateboarding as a metaphor for freedom. (But what is freedom in a game without oppression as a counterpoint?) The first time you're in any environment, the customizable player character is faced with a drab, gray environment. The people are dressed in bland, stuffy clothes, and corporate propaganda is the only attention-drawing thing in the area. As the player starts to perform tricks, though, the environment pops into color, boring boxes slope into ramps from which you can perform vert tricks, and the player's signature power starts to become available.
Once the environment starts to gain color, the player is able to adjust items on the fly, creating his ideal skate park in mid-motion. While tuning ramps provides subtle modifications, the game can also make more overt changes, such as changing the subway access tunnel into a giant half-pipe to get atop the fountain or extending a rail and dragging it in any direction the player desires. You can reach up into the sky to break high propaganda pieces and bring the entire block into color. All of this can be reset, piece by piece, as needed, so that a rail can be a path to two completely different objectives.
With the assistance of the writing team of "Family Guy," the plot will have the character rescuing Shaun and toppling the efforts of Goji Rokkaku — oops, wrong game. The rep called my comparison to Jet Set Radio accurate but incomplete because the game used skating as the power, and the game's fantastic elements were intended to remind of urban fantasy. Fans of Sega's classic might find a lot to love in this creation, even though it's more realistically grounded in some significant ways.
Fans of skate games who are looking for something fresher than EA's Skate series and have grown tired of Activision's Tony Hawk games will be able to give Shaun White Skateboarding a go this September.
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