Atari has been getting their feet wet in the Xtreme Sports realm for quite some time. Starting the Transworld line of games with Surf, they would release Splashdown and now, Transworld Snow. There are already three other snowboarding titles available on the Xbox and although only one of them is an exclusive, is there really room for another? While Transworld Snow is an above average title, it eventually fails because it brings little if anything new to the table.
The titles currently available tend to lean heavily towards varying ends of the genre. SSX Tricky is a pure arcade-lovers delight that features over the top action and tricks while Amped caters to the more hardcore fanbase. Dark Summit isn’t really an Xtreme sports title per se but it is a snowboarding game nonetheless, just a snowboarding title with adventure game elements. So where does Transworld fit into the scheme of things? It’s basically a nice fit between Tricky and Amped that leans a little more towards the Tricky side of things as opposed to the Amped side. So thus we have Transworld Snow, a snowboarding game that is slightly below average because it tries too hard to appeal to everyone and in the process, caters to no one.
From the start you’ll be able to carve up one track with one of ten riders. As your curiosity gets the best of you, you decide to scroll the track list all the way over and discover that quite a large number of tracks are waiting to be unlocked, 16 to be exact. So far this game is looking like a million bucks. You step into the first level and you’re greeted by a pretty well rendered mountainside. You’ll notice that the draw distance is quite far and the textures look quite nice. You decide to do a few tricks off the jumps and you realize that the tricking system is quite easy to grab a hold of. As you head down the mountain you’ll encounter a small village, complete with cars that move along the roads. As a vehicle is about to hit you, you ollie over it and notice that the sound of car pans through your 5.1 speakers as it passes you by. Your first run finally comes to an end as you launch yourself off a huge jump that leads up to the finishing line. You’re not finished yet though, you admire yourself in the replay that follows, giving yourself credit for a pretty decent first run through the game. Then you hit the next run and realize exactly why this game is so flawed.
As it is true with most games, the more you play it the more you learn to hate it. This holds true with Snow as well, while I initially loved the game I kept noticing more and more problems with the game that really stuck out like sore thumbs. While I initially loved the visuals, I began to noticed that their charm would wear off over time. Snow doesn’t quite look like snow and the texture work really seems incomplete, I began to notice artifacts and seams in the scenery where pieces of the maps came together. When I watched the replay I was able to notice quite a few problems, my rider would sink into the snow for no reason. I always thought that snowboards were supposed to ride on the surface of the snow, not somehow fall beneath it. Then I began to notice that the graphics are quite ugly when viewed up close, it’s kind of like being drunk and picking up that chick at the club and the seeing her for the first time the next morning. It may have looked good from far away but now that you’re up close and personal, you’ll notice her many many flaws.
I also began to notice flaws with the tricking system, while I loved it in the beginning I began to hate it by the 2nd or 3rd hours of game play. Jumping is handled with the A button while the left analog stick rotates the rider and the right analog stick performs grabs. Pressing the right stick in each of the different directions performs a different trick, suppressing the stick while pressing it in another direction performs another set of tricks. Already I’m not comfortable with the layout, I have to take my right thumb off of the jump button in order to perform tricks. Like SSX, performing tricks will fill up a meter that can be used to give you a small speed boost. This means that tricks aren’t really necessary to play the game, unless you the play the game to win that is.
The combo system isn’t exactly intuitive either, to string together a chain of tricks you’ll have to press the right and left trigger right after landing. Working as a sort of ‘revert’ feature on snow, you’ll be able to link together another combo to maximize your points. Well there’s a problem, instead of working like a revert to manual combo, you’ll continue to go normal speed, the only limiting factor is a timer that can easily be reset by doing a 180 degree flip on flat land. Because tricks are so simple to perform (most of the time you’ll be able to perform backflips without the aid of a ramp) combos can be strung along quite easily, resulting in massive point totals. I will give the designers their due though and state that the trick system is easy to use because it’s quite forgiving at times. You can actually hold a grab all the way until you land without falling down and messing up the whole trick. You’ll usually be able to land sideways from a huge jump and continue on your way without missing a beat.
In fact it seems like little will ever stop your racer, there are some serious collision detection problems afoot. Sometimes you’ll be able to go through solid looking fences, other times you won’t. Sometimes a harmless looking rock will stop you in your tracks while hitting the broadside of a log cabin will barely slow you down. It’s very iffy at best.
Each level will yield a different experience not only in terms of scenery, but in terms of goal structure. Some of the levels are your traditional runs down the insane side of the mountains, a few of them are half-pipe levels, a few of them are levels where you’ll be given an insanely huge jump to trick off of and there are ones where you race others down the mountainside. Of all of these, the free runs are definitely the best followed closely by the half-pipes. The races aren’t quite as entertaining, however, the AI racers seems to be on rails and they’ll always magically appear right in front of you no matter how well you do. I’m not sure if there’s rubber band AI going on in here but every race always seems to be close no matter how well or how poor you do.
In terms of audio the game fares quite well. Most of the audio effects sound just like they should in real life and although the audio effects don’t really stand out, they do a great job of accompanying the action. The included soundtrack features a nice mix of lesser known bands that will have you thumping for hours. Of course you can also use your own custom soundtrack if you’re not satisfied by what has been provided. As a nice touch you can use the white and black buttons to quickly change musical tracks on the fly.
This is an instance where the game seems like it could have benefited from a few more months of development. Many of the gameplay fundamentals are there but they are just poorly executed. Nice little touches like covershots are present in the game but the end result will just have you scratching your head as you try to figure out exactly how such an ugly shot could make the cover of a magazine. The replay feature is pretty much broken as it features some horrible camera angles that do little to highlight the action.
Transworld Snow is a great example of a title with an identity crisis. Is it an over the top arcade game? Is it a snowboarding simulation? It doesn’t know and in this respect, it tries too hard to find an identity but in the end, it doesn’t have one. It's definitely a blast to play but it just doesn't seem to advance the genre in any way. I enjoyed my time with it and if you're craving some good snowboarding action, you should definitely pick this one up, otherwise go ahead and wait for the next iteration of SSX.
This game just doesn't know what it wants to be. There's a lot of content here, however, tons of tracks and a lot of gaming goodness. Pick this up if you're in the market for an above-average snow boarding title.
Rating: 7.6 Above Average
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile