Although you wouldn't know it from looking at it, Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding is not Destineer's first console snowboarding title. Last year the fledgling publisher released not one, but two different versions of Stoked. With its mix of Skate-style game play and a huge mountain to explore (a la SSX3), Stoked easily earned the title of the best current-generation snowboarding game. Maybe it was asking too much to expect the company's newest snowboarding game to match the impressive heights of Stoked, but Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding doesn't even come close.
Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding comes a little too late to cash in on the popularity of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, which is just the first of many curious decisions made by the company when it came to developing and publishing this mediocre snowboarding game. What we have here is a game that feels incredibly dated; almost as if the company was struggling to get down the basics that the competition mastered years ago. Instead of rivaling the likes of SSX, Amped or Stoked, Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding has a hard time competing with Sony's long-defunct Cool Boarders series.
Triple Crown Snowboarding gives you standard game modes you're used to, including a career mode, versus mode and so on. The single-player mode has you playing through a twenty day career, competing in a series of familiar events -- the half-pipe, slalom, snowboard cross, slopestyle, etc. Each day offers one event that has you trying to earn three different awards, usually based on how well you performed on that particular day. Once you've beaten the event (with or without collecting all three of the achievements) you are free to move on to the next day, where you'll be asked to do yet another type of event.
The game does a good job of mixing up the events so you never feel like you're doing the same thing over and over. The problem is that none of these events feel especially fleshed out. Each of the courses are short and don't offer you a lot of objects to trick off of. What's worse, the fact that there are so few possible tricks means that you'll likely see everything there is to see before you even make it to the bottom of the course. There's no real depth to the trick system and the courses just aren't interesting enough to make you want to come back for more.
But the biggest problem is that these events are far too easy. Half way through my career I realized that by doing almost nothing, I could easily outscore the competition. One event asked me to beat 55,000 points, a number you are supposed to hit by running the course three separate times. However, even after a few unfortunate spills, I was still able to beat that score in just one run. By the time I had gone down the hill three times, I was stunned to find that I had more than 100,000 points over my goal. In this situation why am I even bothering to run the course again? Too much of my time was spent with no challenge whatsoever.
Unfortunately the push-over difficulty permeated its way into each of the game's events. The half-pipe levels often don't have time limits, which means that a gamer with even a rudimentary understanding the controls can trick indefinitely. The races are also easy, since the competition seems to have trouble staying up. The same goes for the slalom events, where the other characters seem to go out of their way to mess up. And this isn't just at the beginning, but rather all the way through. It feels like this game's difficulty was set for the youngest gamers, but even they won't be challenged by Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding.
When the game isn't throwing familiar events at you, it's going out of its way to remind you that they have the likenesses of some of the world's most popular snowboarders. Well, maybe most popular is an exaggeration. Because of licensing problems, Destineer doesn't have the likeness of Shaun White. Instead we get Hannah Teter and a bunch of athletes I had never heard of. I hate to speak ill of Lindsey Jacobellis or Gretchen Bleiler, but if they perform anything like their virtual counterparts there may be a reason why I haven't heard of them.
Of course, I'm not opposed to being introduced to celebrity athletes through video games, the Tony Hawk series singlehandedly introduced me to every skateboarder I can name (and a few I can't). But it would be nice if the in-game visuals didn't make these characters look goofy. The character models in this game look awkward at best, something that translates to an overall underwhelming visual style. I know that the Wii is less powerful than the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, but there are last-generation snowboarding games that rival the look of Triple Crown Snowboarding.
The courses don't make out much better. Each of the game's events look like they are played on the same patch of snow, usually with similar obstacles and jumps. Couple this with the fact that there are very few obstacles in your way and I can't help but feel the levels are a little too sparse for their own good. Also, I miss the over-the-top effects that we saw in games like SSX and Amped. There's no sense of speed or awe, it's just you on a white background doing boring moves and praying you don't summersault down the side of a cliff.
As I played through the game's career mode I was struck by how much this game felt like a portable game. The game's short campaign, poorly detailed environments and overall game play strike me as a Nintendo DS game. I wouldn't be surprised if this game originally started its life on another platform before finally hitting the Wii. There's certainly nothing about the controls that take advantage of the Wii remote, there's absolutely no waggle functionality in this game. The only time you even use the motion control is when you're sifting through the menus. I found myself wondering if I would have been more forgiving of this game if I was playing it on the Nintendo DS and not the Wii. I have to assume that even on the Nintendo DS I would have been disappointed by the lack of ambition and the ho-hum controls.
Interestingly enough, Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding is helped out by the lack of snowboarding games on the Nintendo Wii. The only other notable entry was the equally disappointing SSX Blur, a game that was rendered almost unplayable because of the motion controls. Triple Crown Snowboarding is at least playable, even if it doesn't aspire to be much more than an SSX knock-off. If you absolutely must own a snowboarding game for the Wii, this Destineer release is cheap and will get your primed for something more. Everybody that owns something other than a Wii should look for Stoked, an infinitely better snowboarding game.
Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding may come from the same publisher as Stoked, but don't confuse this twisted mess with that solid snowboarding game. With its lack of depth, short story mode and ho-hum controls, you definitely get what you pay for when you buy Triple Crown Championship Snowboarding!