What's the Greatest Video Game: Shaun White Skateboarding

This is an ongoing list where I attempt to play and complete every video game in the known universe. For previous games please check past blogs or look at the google doc link at the bottom of the list.

I grew up playing the Tony Hawk series, I remember my brother getting a PS1 and it was one of our first games outside of Final Fantasy 7 and Nightmare Creatures. I was never much of a real life skater, I certainly attempted it, and was able to ollie off the driveway, but that was about it. The Tony Hawk franchise was my gateway into that world, I knew it wasn't realistic, but it was fun and it felt great pulling off high scoring runs or tricks (even if that meant doing 900s over helicopters). When the Skate series came out I was fully on board with a more realistic game, and I gave myself to it. The controls made sense in my brain, and something others held against it, was never a factor for me. This is all to say, that skateboarding games were my jam at the time.

Shaun White Skateboarding came out during the Skate franchise for the 360. It was banking on the name of the man in the title, someone who outside of Tony Hawk is more of a name in extreme sports at the time. It is oddly a Story based skateboarding game, which I will give them credit is an approach that I don't think anyone saw coming. You play as a regular skateboarder that is looking to fight against the man who is, in essence, making the world boring. The world is a drab one color, people only wear business suits, and life exists solely to go to work and then to go home. Shaun White gets captured early on in the story, and you are tasked with breaking him out of boring jail. You change the world by doing tricks, which colorize the city, can change characters out of the suits, and can make the environment more skateboard friendly, adding hills and ramps. Complete enough story markers, and new areas open up where you rinse and repeat until the world is "free" from the man.

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I am all for story, and I think this could have been a fun cliché story to stick it to the man, but in telling the story, the game has prioritized the wrong aspect of the game. This is a skateboarding game that makes performing tricks rather boring and rote. You can use tricks to build up a power meter, but this is only to hit certain criteria for changing the world. When areas or the world is changed, it is just not fun to skate in. A great line offers very little reward, and finding verts or bowls to skate in can increase a multiplier that doesn't really lead to anything. If you aren't in the middle of a mission specifically asking for tricks, it honestly doesn't make sense to do them. While later tony hawk entries, and skate forced you to ride to objectives, you always did tricks along the way. Either as practice for something bigger, or simply because it was fun. I spent more time just running or riding my board without doing tricks then should be possible. A skateboard may as well have been an inventory item that I sometimes used, instead of being glued to my feet. There are collectibles to be had, and you can buy new tricks from the shop, but the game certainly doesn't require it, and you won't get any additional fun out of it.

In the world of skateboarding video games, there are two distinctions, realistic (skate, session) and arcade (Tony Hawk). Do you want your character to be able to ollie over a building, or do you want them to be able to kickflip down 5 stairs and feel accomplished. Shaun White, apparently couldn't decide and made a game that tries to sit in the middle. Your move set for the most part is grounded in more of a skate vibe. You can nail some flip tricks off curbs, but you aren't landing any grabs until you hit a vert or bowl. However, as part of the story, your character gets world-shaping powers, which can create vert ramps, extend grind options, or create a pole in mid-air to slow the rate at which you are falling. Nearly all of these abilities can only be used at certain locations, but there is still some freeform stuff here, you can extend a bike rack up to a windowsill, or try and make it corkscrew. A relatively novel concept, that would fit some sort of level editor, but when you have to do these shaping powers, it is usually to hit a set goal.

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The mission structure in this game is pretty bad. Despite how the game can seem open, and that you can approach missions how you see fit, most of that is smoke and mirrors. Later in the game when you have to hit X amount of targets within a certain timeframe may appear to be open, but can only be beaten if you run the correct line. Some of these are so precise that missing one step in potentially a 15-20 step process can mean starting the mission over again. This can be incredibly infuriating, because this game doesn't control nearly as good as any of the other skate franchises. Especially when you get banished to skate island (yup that's a place) the game kicks into a higher difficulty ramp. That's not to scare anyone, as I still think this game is fairly easy to complete, but there is a big difference between completing missions at hour 2, and hour 10.

While, I am not personally a huge Shaun White fan, I feel this game borders on a bait and switch with the name. Shaun White for being the namesake of this game is barely in it. There are only 2 sections where you play as him, and maybe 20 minutes outside of that where he is on camera. Instead you deal with every other stereotype you can think of. The horny Latin Lover, the stoner burnout, the 1 token female character, these are the characters a video game company would think skateboarders identify with, but not just normal teens.

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This game is long too. It overstays its welcome as missions start repeating, and everytime you think you are close to just breaking Shaun White out and moving on, there is always one more mission. Even if you were the biggest Shaun White fan, I don't think I can recommend this game to you. It did nothing to the formula of skateboarding games to improve upon it, and their decision to make this a story based game, means that there is no reason to ever go back to it. The areas aren't fun to skate through, and while there is a point system, you aren't setting high scores for your friends to beat.

Is this game the Greatest game of all time: uhhhh.... No

Where does it rank: Shaun White is number #23 on a list of 28 games. It is 1 below "Speed Devils" and right above "World Series of Poker." This is just a bad game. Its a poor skateboarding game, a poor story game, and a poor god-sim game.

Up Next: a two pack - "The Mahjong Huntress" and "Lost Lands: Dark Overlord" both on Switch. (Listen, I said I have to play all games, I didn't say they would all be good games)

Anyone looking for it: here is the link to the list and more if you are interested in following along with me (this is not a self promotion). Here

Thanks for listening.

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