Tony Hawk's Pro Snowboarding? I think not.
Imagine for a second that you're obsessed about something, like, for instance, Doritos. You love Doritos. You try to work them in everywhere you can: Doritos in your sandwiches, Doritos in your desk at work - we're talking a straight-up Dorito fetish.
Eventually, you get to placing your Doritos where they don't belong and something bad happens. Maybe you stuck a Dorito in your car and skewered your butt by accidentally sitting on the pointy end. Perhaps you ruined a pristine white sweater by manhandling it with orangey-yellow powdered fingers.
Now you know what it feels like to be in Activision's shoes. It's nice that they can make a great game series like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, but for the love of god, what is Tony doing in their other games? Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX was basically Tony on a bike and now we get Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder, or Tony on snow.
As opposed to making a real snowboarding game, it's as though the folks at Activision gutted Cool Boarders and replaced all the missing bits with parts of a skateboarding game. And when I say gutted, I mean raptor-style eviscerated. Shaun Palmer is a very bare-bones game. Other than the Career mode, your only single player choice is the Free Ride, where you get to play any level you've unlocked in Career mode without any objectives or time limit. There's really not much to see here.
On the other hand, Career Mode sends you down a mountain with the task of completing nine objectives. These objectives are simple enough, requiring you to do things like a certain trick or finding a set of obscurely placed objects. Just think of them as gems or coins and you'll get the basic picture.
The problem with the Career mode levels is that it's a carbon copy of the THPS games. Finding the sacred fiz-bah gems and destroying the cursed coffee carts is a bitch, especially since most levels have multiple paths. Unfortunately, all you know about the level is revealed in a five-second introductory clip, which is played at the beginning of each run. They are so useless it's practically offensive.
Shaun Palmer takes place on a mountain, which means you start at the top and wind up at the bottom every time. This makes finding all the little odds and ends a pain, as opposed to the THPS games in which you can just skate around the map looking for stuff until the time runs out. In the case of Shaun Palmer, there really needs to be an on-screen map and little arrows and plumes of smoke a la Cool Boarders to keep you up on the score and the goals. As it stands, you can run through a level a thousand times busting the sickest tricks ever and still not get the sponsors you need.
And not getting these sponsors is a bad thing, as sponsors are the basic currency of Shaun Palmer. Without them you can't unlock things like new boards or new levels and you don't get to augment your boarder's stats. This means that completing some of those awful objectives is absolutely mandatory for progressing through the game.
More often than not, getting a sponsor will involve grinding. I've seen a real snowboarder grind, like, once. Snowboards are not skateboards; they do different stuff, and they're fun for different reasons. Skateboards can go anywhere and grind on anything. Snowboards go on snow, and they go fast.
Shaun Palmer doesn't seem to understand that it isn't a skateboarding game; you can go anywhere (even the tops of chairlifts), but you can't go very fast. At least in Tony Hawk it makes sense. Here, it's just lame - especially since the game ends up being a total grindfest.
To score the big points, you grind everywhere, all the time. Normal snowboarding issues like "turning" and "speed" are rendered moot in favor of grinding, which is odd since, again, snowboarding isn't really all about GRINDING. You spend all the time you can on a fixed track, trying to get from the roof to the water pipe so you can get another sponsor and get out of the level you've been on for two hours.
The speed factor is very disappointing. You never need to race, even in the multiplayer modes. It isn't about who's the fastest or twitchiest - it's about who grinds what the longest. In turn, the multiplayer modes suck. It's you and someone else, grinding everything you can and tricking off stuff. You can shove each other. Hell, in one mode you can even hog the screen. But you can't race at all.
That isn't to say the game doesn't have its fast moments. A solid framerate and some hectic rail-transfers can make for a rousing time. Unfortunately, you usuallywind up flat on your back, and you're always focused on that horrible little balance meter.
That's too bad, because Shaun Palmer looks nice. The character models are good and the courses look okay. Some of the light sourcing and shading effects are great. Night levels and sunset levels look way better than they play.
Besides the Career Mode and the Free Ride Mode, you can create your own snowboarder. But you don't get many choices, and at least a few of them are non-options. I could only create about three boarders that I'd actually want to use.
The music involves a lot of Spineshank and Alien Ant Farm and Powerman 5000. All of the tracks orbit the angry, inferiority complex driven Rap-core genre that's so popular these days among wrestling fans, so most of the songs put you in a weird place if you aren't a skinny white kid who hates your dad. However, if you are, you'll really enjoy this game's soundtrack.
The sound effects are pretty forgettable, except for the yuppies who yell at you depending on what surface you're grinding. Hey you, get off that Tony Hawk game!
Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder is a fundamentally flawed game. It's a skateboarding game that's trying to be a snowboarding game, instead of trying even harder to be a good snowboarding game. It's pretty fun to grind and trick off stuff, but you can do that in THPS 3 without having to deal with the fact that you're falling down a mountain. With little speed and less originality, this one doesn't have the skills to out-trick or out-race its Tricky competition.