Stoked: Big Air Edition

Review

posted 4/14/2010 by Ben Berry
other articles by Ben Berry
A little less than a year ago, Cyril reviewed Stoked, a snowboarding game published by Destineer. We’ve been checking out titles from for a few years. This game came as a surprise to a lot of people. Destineer started with a lot of focus on budget titles, cartoon IP and social gaming ports, and DS games. Seeing them produce a top shelf sports title turned more than a few heads.
 
As with any first release in a series, Stoked wasn’t perfect. It received mixed but generally favorable reviews, the majority of which said basically the game was a near miss to being really good. So, Destineer gave the developers at Bongfish the go ahead to get back to work and finish what they started with Stoked: Big Air Edition.
 
I got this game in December, and played it quite a bit leading up to the Olympics. I had planned to write strictly based on my experience with this game in comparison to say SSX or some of the skateboard games I’d played in the past. The more I played the game, the more I liked it, so I decided I couldn’t do this review justice without playing the original game first to compare. After many hours between the two games, I finally got my act together and compiled a very late and oft-revised review.
 
 
The biggest part of Stoked: Big Air Edition is literally the biggest thing in the game; the mountains you’re shredding. And like the base you need to be able to ski, the mountains and the rest of the environment is basically dead on. There were five mountains in the original game, and two more were added in Stoked BAE. With the addition of the towering K2, there are now more than 500 square miles of surface to shred. With the exception of being able to feel the chill of the wind, or getting dizzy from the thin oxygen of the altitude, there’s a strong feeling of being in this game. Conditions happen in essentially a slightly faster real-time, and can have a real effect on your ability to complete tricks or races.
 
So many games cater to the gamers need to instantaneous gratification that they take the reality out of games that should be steeped in reality. BAE doesn’t have that problem. Days don’t have unlimited daylight; racing at dusk or in the dark is hazardous to your ability to see the course. Snowstorms don’t just inhibit visibility, they affect the way the board cuts through the snow and how the rider hangs in the air during tricks.

 
 
The other great thing about the environment is the way that it’s utilized to set up the various tasks the boarder can perform. While a menu system was added in BAE, jumping out of the helicopter and riding down to the point on mountain where different events begin felt a lot more natural. This was probably the only thing added with the second release that I didn’t feel made much of an impact.
 
The easiest and hardest things in the game are very much the same; just shredding the mountain. Once you hit the powder, you’re given every opportunity to fly through the air early and often. The tutorial mode teaches you the basics of tricks, but there is a huge difference between basic tricks and the ones that really score points. This is where the original Stoked fell down a bit. Trying the same three tricks in each the two games showed the time that Bongfish put into the control changes. In the first game, it was fairly difficult to replicate the same complex tricks. Because your athlete has to be able to do so many different moves, they pack a lot onto the controls. You had to hit the corners on the analog sticks just right and quickly, or the tricks simply wouldn’t work. With the release of BAE, they softened the controls enough to make getting the more difficult analog moves easier to complete.
 
 


One of the biggest features missing from the first game was racing. This was provided in spades by marking courses much as we saw on Whistler Mountain during the Vancouver Olympics, and putting you up against one of the seven pros. You can also race multiple opponents on XBL, though my record against human opponents was basically the opposite of my NHL 10 record. I’m brutal at racing.
 
Graphically the game is pretty sharp and I didn’t feel like the developers needed to do too much in this area. But they took the time anyways update lighting, added fog and several other effects that really made a sharp contrast to the original. Like most of the other skating or snowboard games, the professional and sport apparel aspects of BAE are very important. In fact, several of the skaters switched sponsors or professional teams between the two versions of the game, so the graphics were updated to reflect this. The riders, the boards, and the trees all look very realistic, with the only negative being some of the snow formations. Some of the animations when riding the park elements are not all that strong, particularly when grinding rails near other large objects.
 
 
Back to the professional aspect and one area that still needs to be cleaned up; the sponsorships are all exactly the same. Each move up the ladder, you start with the same tasks and have basically the same milestones. This seems counterintuitive to the simulation feel of the rest of the game. Plus, as heavily involved as the sponsors seem to be in the game, getting this section of the game right should be pretty easy. The pros are all big name in the sport, and you would think at least one of them would play the game enough to see what needed fixed in this area. None of them made the Olympic teams in the Vancouver games, so I'm sure they had the time (oooh, snap!)
 
In conclusion, with all of the enhancements, and in light of the budget price the game was released at, I have to give the game some pretty solid marks. While it’s still not perfect, it’s definitely improved and has taken a pretty good game and made it better.





A-
Snippet: A good game made better. Improved graphics, the addition of racing, and some control scheme enhancements have made the game better. Still needs enhancement in the professional sponsorship areas.