I have traversed the snowy slopes on a snowboard once in my life, when I was in fifth grade. I was not what one would call "a pro". Maybe "a fool with limbs flailing and falling and covered in snow" would be more accurate. I didn't like going fast, and I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to stop. All in all, it wasn't the greatest experience. Shaun White Snowboarding has done an interesting feat: it's transferred my fifth grade snowboarding experience into a video game, and released it on multiple platforms. It's slow, unpleasant, and not very good at anything it does.
The game begins with you customizing your character's clothing and board, though the only thing that really makes a difference is your board and its attributes. After this, you're released upon four mountains to do what you wish. Aside from being able to explore the mountain ranges, this also means being Shaun's little errand boy (or girl), and collecting tokens. There are also a number of challenges for you to take part in, rewarding big tricks and fancy footwork with money and respect.
At first, the notion of exploring these massive mountains (and doing things like taking the helicopter all the way up to the peak) sounds pretty exciting. It's like a snowbound version of Skate, in theory. And it is, in a way. Touches like being able to see snowboarders around you, or going up the ski lift, are nice But problems crop up quickly when you play, and not just minute little things either. Shaun White Snowboarding has some serious problems with controls and handling, both while just moving around and while doing tricks. These are important parts of a snowboarding game.
Doing a trick is fairly simple: use the right analog stick to grab, do so while pressing another button to do 'shifties'. Not too bad. Unfortunately, pulling a trick off of any worth is an excercise in frustration, and landing them is even worse. I can't count the number of times that my board has landed flat on the snow, only to have my avatar simply wipe out, bouncing and rolling ineffectually among the white. Sometimes when I jumped I'd be immediately thrown into a wildly spinning animation, arms flailing, and unable to do anything but fall flat on my face. It quickly became a frustrating experience, and completing any challenge with a decent score became just as irritating, as half the time I tried to do a trick, I'd flip out for no discernable reason.
There's also no sense of presence or speed in Shaun White. Sometimes you're hit a straightaway and should be going at ridiculous speeds, but it just doesn't feel like it, even when the game calls you a 'Speed Demon'. Trying to board through snow that isn't heavily travelled is even worse, and it feels like you're slogging through mud. There's no real sense that you're going as fast as you should be, and it makes everything feel slow. Exciting, this is not.
The same problem applies to height and jumps: despite being able to do a backflip from a simple jump off of flat ground, jumping off a ramp makes it feel like you've got weights tied to your ankles, and attempts to get any height are met with a fall. Even when you fly off of a large jump, you fall to the ground so fast that it's an exercise just to pull of simple stunts. I suppose it's trying to be realistic, but it's not working. It just gets boring. I mean, you'd think a half-pipe meant being able to do any number of impressive stunts with serious speed, but you'll be lucky to get enough speed and air to do the simplest spin.
The game is pretty though, I'll give it that. Massive vistas, impressive views, and trails left behind in the snow as you barrel down the mountain, avoiding other boarders (or tossing a snowball or two at them). Speaking of other snowboarders, there is the opportunity to go online as well and board on the same mountain as other players. The same problems persist here, though. It may be fun for a while playing with others, but the problems with the game don't go away, and you're still playing a snowboarding game that doesn't feel fun to play. Albeit with more people.
Just like my fifth grade snowboarding experience, Shaun White isn't very fun. It tries to do things right, but makes them slow and repetitive. Tricks don't feel impressive, jumps don't go anywhere, and speed is some sort of myth, forcing you to lazily slide down the mountains. There are better snowboarding games on other systems, and Shaun White just isn't one that needs to be played.