numbthumb's Stoked: Big Air Edition (Xbox 360) review

Stoked: Big Air Edition Review

 http://numbthumb.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/stoked-big-air-edition-review/
 
 

Stoked Big Air Edition Review

XBOX 360

The original stoked sold just around 60,000 copies if VgChartz is to be trusted, and that’s not hard to believe given the lack of marketing and distribution. The developers at Bongfish understandably wanted to get a little more out of their product so they’ve released Stoked Big Air Edition in hopes of finding their way into gamer’s homes. Somebody should probably tell Destineer that. This game is nowhere to be found in Canada, hardly stocked in stores in the US and months away from a Euro release if they actually get one. Why am I bringing this up? Because it’s a perfect example of either absent minded money men, or a crippling lack of infrastructure that could possibly kill a franchise that doesn’t deserve it. External issues aside…

Stoked: BAE starts you off by letting you customize your boarder, but there’s a lack of options that make it anything really compelling or individualistic. You have a few brands to choose from, and ultimately unlock more as you gain sponsors. It’s still something that I hope they really improve upon if they release further games because it’s an area that they can really add some small touches too that could make a very big difference. Still, your options aren’t exactly limited to just choosing your boarder. You’ll also be working your way toward a distinct type of boarder, either Hucker or Stylish. The former is balls out crazy, throwing in as much and as many tricks and grabs as possible before landing, while the latter is the definitive perfectionist, finessing tricks and grabs. Neither style is better; it’s just a choice and grants some sense that the gamer gets to board how he or she wishes.

Stoked: BAE isn’t a sequel, but a repackaging of the original game with some added content. To be exact; a lot more challenges and 2 extra mountains to snowboard, bringing the total to 7. One of the great elements of Stoked was its dynamic weather system. Depending on the day and the forecast some parts of a mountain might be bare rock or ice, while the forecast three days from then (in-game time) would be calling for a blizzard. When you came back, those areas once plagued with bare rock would be knee deep in snow. It worked great then and it’s still one of the unique elements of the game now. It wasn’t all perfect for everyone though, as it became difficult at times to find perfect jumps or places to keep a solid line going. This seems to have been markedly improved this time around because there’s never any shortage of places to jump, often bigger than I remember them being in the past. It adds up to a more thrilling experience that caters to free riders looking to just plow down a mountain pulling off endless moves.

Another tweak to the criticism of the past game is the carving physics, something most of these games don’t seem to get quite right. It feels a lot better here and is extremely easy to pull off with the simple pull of one of the triggers and some speed. Unfortunately, this improvement is weighed down by something not entirely fixed from the first game – grinding. Depending on how you hit a pole or a log your boarder will sometimes angle off in strange directions seemingly breaking the laws of physics. This isn’t restricted only to grinding either. There were times when I was able to bunny hop massive distances into the air off nothing more than a banked slope. None of this is game breaking, and it’s easy enough to forgive for what the rest of the game gets right.

I do have one more issue though, and this one is far more frustrating because it shows just how close this game is to being great but still manages to fall just short. The game loads with a short 10-15 second screen when you choose a mountain, which then opens you up to about 10 drop points on each mountain. Every drop has 11 challenges which you can either board directly to or choose from a menu. Alternatively, if you’ve broken all the mountains high scores, you’re granted a pilots license and can fly anywhere you wish yourself. The speed at which this loads is often remarkable, allowing for instant quick starts with the press of the back button. If that seems benign, it’s not – consider how many times tougher challenges in games require you to restart. But while that element is near perfect, the quick restart when you bail can get terribly bogged down in free ride mode when you smash into a rock, restart, and you’re just feet away from the same rock. And you bail again. And again. And possibly a few more times. When this happens you’ll rue the very thing that makes the game so fluid.

There’s a solid juxtaposition Bongfish can take from their own game though, which is the races they’ve added to each mountain. There are a lot of them, some quite challenging. If you bail during a challenge, you’ll lose some time, but you’ll also be set back a far greater distance than where you actually crashed. It often means you have to restart the challenge. If they found a perfect medium between this and the free ride resetting for both elements of gameplay, both frustrations would be pacified.

Stoked offers more than competent visuals, neither groundbreaking nor disappointing.  There was never any random pop-up to disturb the ride and your line of sight always shows you everything you’ll encounter. The soundtrack meanwhile is unchanged from what I can recall, but that’s not bad. It’s all perfect music to ride to and very befitting of the game.

If you never played Stoked I’d highly recommend checking out this second packaging of the game. There’s a ton of challenges and sizable mountains to scale that feel quite different from the next. If you’re looking for a comparable; Stoked is to Skate as Shaun White Snowboarding is to Tony Hawk after it started sucking. The controls are easy to learn, intuitive and responsive. If you can ignore some of the bare customization elements and a few of the physics quirks you’ll be rewarded with an excellent snowboarding experience. At $40 dollars, it’s an easy recommendation.

SCORES:

The World: 7 Mountains, all offering something unique enough to feel fresh. The weather dynamics help keeps the mountains new each time down. It may be only two new mountains for people that played the first game, but the added challenges on previous mountains still kept me wanting to comeback even though I played the first game to death. 9/10

The Boarding: There are some quirks that can get frustrating, but Bongfish nails most of the elements that you want to see and they do it with vigor. Being a Hucker or being Stylish feel different but don’t discount you from experiencing what the game really offers. Easier lines and bigger jumps – there’s rarely a dull moment. 9/10

The Challenges: There’s a lot of them, most rehashes of the past game, but with a ton of races added in there’s a plethora of challenges of varying type to tackle. They can become tedious at times because a lot of them end up becoming too similar if you’ve mastered the moves required. So it’s quantity over quality. 8/10

The Look & Sound: Stoked: BAE isn’t the most visually stunning game but also manages moments of real beauty, and it never suffers from issues that often plague games where line of sight is of vast importance. The weather feels real and can change how easily you traverse areas if you find yourself in a storm.  Soundtrack is perfect for this type of game, even if it’s unchanged. 8/10

The Online: It’s a little bleak at times, given there’s so few people playing this game. Still, when you find a quick session you’ll drop right onto a mountain with other boarders which you can challenge. It’s not exactly easy to figure out how to challenge them, but once you do it’s quick and helps you immerse into the community, albeit a small one. Playing online also allows you to see current leaderboards, updated weekly, for specific challenges and races, even allowing you to download ghosts of other players for races to compete with. It’s well done, and fairly easy to maneuver.  8/10

GRADE: 84%

2 Comments
Posted by VanNuck13

Wish they could have made a Stoked 2 -- maybe one day. Good read.

Posted by ultrapeanut

Thanks for this review. It's thorough and well-written, and I'm pretty sure it helped me decide to take a shot on Stoked. Turns out I kind of like it.

@vannuck13: Fingers crossed.

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