sourmillennia's StokEd (Xbox 360) review

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Stoked: A Tricktacular Festival of Powder

     While the above descriptor may seem to be a bit too glowing of a response, please let me explain why Stoked seems to be one of the better snowboarding games on the market. It really comes down to three key facets (which every extreme sports game should have) and those are gameplay, smoothness, and creativity.

     On the gameplay front Stoked takes the tried and true methods of snowboarding games and puts them in the player's hands to great effect. LT and RT initiate grabs, and pushing the right stick allows the user to tweak said grabs until their heart is content. Moving the left stick in any of the cardinal directions begins spins/flips. Nothing too surprising there, right? But what is surprising, and a neat twist on the genre, is the way those ideas are suited to your 'riding style'. There are two primary ways to carve the pixeled slopes, as a 'Huckster', or 'Styled'. Hucking means just going off the jumps and gettin' crazy in the air, plus utilizing the pre-jump wind ups to get more spin on your leaps. Styling involves taking the jumps slower and making it look good (usually done by gently tweaking the left stick about halfway to the rim in any direction you wish to spin in), as the player progresses more special skills are unlocked depending upon the style. Also, one cannot dual wield the styles, you need to stick to your guns. However, the player starts out being able to do just about everything, there are no real stats to fill out; just start riding.

     On the framerate front, important to any sports game, Stoked does hit some issues. When loading up one's game the framerates are often skippy and a bit annoying. However, once the game loads the rest of the mountain it picks right back up. The transitons to any of the available mountains (such as Mt. Fuji in Japan or the Swiss Alps) are also quick, though the player needs to back out to a menu to transfer from mountain to mountain, which gets old when one just wants to ride. The graphics themselves are quite pretty, without too much pop-in and great draw distances, and the lack of other boarders or 'developed' ski regions makes the game that much more breathtaking.

     Creatively, the game goes a pretty basic route. In all honesty, they took an open-world idea to the maximum here, with some basic goals outlining what you should be doing being there if you need them. I personally had fun just carving the slopes trying to put together nice runs...and sometimes those runs could take up to 10 minutes (the mountains are huge). The career mode involves you taking your no-name boarder to riches through a contrived and overused "look at me, I'm sponsored and in a magazine" approach. Also included with this are 5 'main events' that open up through playing and involve a three round best score average type of competition. There are daily leaderboards included in this, though there is a lack of actual players online so getting first on said boards is not very rewarding. Overall, the game lacks in originality, but its open approach is nice compared to the other 'hold you by the hand' types of career modes out there.

     Overall, Stoked delivers a fast, trick-filled, gaming experience. While fun, it lacks depth, and while pretty; framerate issues do come into effect at times. Still, Stoked is worth at least a rental, and Destineer Studios may be a new independent developer to watch out for in years to come.

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