Review: Snowboarding The Next Phase
Posted 16 Feb 2019 at 14:42 by Dennis Tummers
Traffic services are warning me that there will be a lot of traffic towards the popular winter sports destinations this weekend. With a hot cocoa in hand I shrug it off, before strapping on my snowboard and taking on a slope myself. Not in a fancy ski resort, but from the comfort of my own home? How? With the first snowboarding title for the Nintendo Switch: Snowboarding - The Next Phase!
After last year’s cancellation of Ubisoft’s Steep, the Nintendo Switch was in dire need of a snowboarding title. Snowboarding - The Next Phase makes the claim of being the first one to the system. That is all nice marketing, but is it a good snowboarding game? Developers from the SSX series and Skate are involved in the creation of this game, so that is indeed a promising start. It is published by Red Bull Media House, and it is for the first time I hear that this creator of drinks that keeps our youth awake is also in the gaming industry. It is a fitting match though, as Red Bull tends to sponsor and support the extreme, be it sports, music and now video games.
The first thing you notice when starting your journey is the graphical style. Instead of a realistic approach Snowboarding has a more cel shaded art style, one that makes you think of the Nintendo DS game Tony Hawk's American Sk8land. It is a look that works well for the game, although there is not much detail to be found in the environments. Being a snowboard title, it means there is already a lot of white area and it is a tricky job to make it look interesting. The game fills the environments with some shadows, trees and weather effects, but it in the end a lot of the different countries and areas look very similar.
Travelling from country to country is the way to progress through your snowboarding career. There are quite a number to unlock, but in order to be able to travel to the next destination you need to complete a certain number of missions. Every country has a number of different slopes to tackle, all with a couple of challenges. These come in sets of three, and you need to clear all to unlock the next tier for a total of 9 per slope. These challenges vary from scoring a certain amount of points, to pulling off a certain trick on a photo point, or collecting geotags that are scattered around the stage.
It's unfortunate though that there is not much variation in the different type of missions. The same can be said about the countries you visit. Although you travel around the world (from regions of Canada to more exotic locations such as Japan and Russia), it all appears very similar. Luckily the game controls all right. It could be tighter, yes, but in general it feels like you are in control of your boarder, and you are making flips and grabs as if you've been shredding for ages. Controls are pretty easy, so picking this game up is no big hassle. Which is convenient, as the game also features a local multiplayer mode for split Joy-cons.
Steering is done with your left control stick, and you crouch and jump with A, B, X or Y. When in the air you can press that button again to do a grab trick, and use your left stick again for flips or spins. Pushing ZL or ZR "tweaks" your grab trick, meaning it does a slight variation. And that is about it for your arsenal. Don't expect complicated mechanics such as combos, or the need to keep balance.
By completing challenges you level up, which unlocks a plethora of collectibles such as clothes and boards. These can be used to customize your character, although you cannot edit the character himself. You are always the same guy (no girl option). Leveling up also increases your multiplier, meaning you can rack up higher scores. So simply by grinding your level you can easily gain the high scores needed to complete some of the later levels.
Next to the Career and Local Multiplayer modes, there is an Arcade Mode that lets you shred to your heart's content. Further there is a photo mode to capture your sick tricks (got to stay in the extreme sports slang here). Along the slopes you sometimes find photo points, which automatically makes a capture of the trick you pulled off there and saves it to your Switch's album. No way to turn this off though, so you will end up with a lot of photos in your album.
This is a budget eShop title, so for the couple of euros/pounds it costs, you get a pretty entertaining snowboarding title that can give you a couple hours of snowy fun. But being a budget title is also the biggest problem of the game. If this would have been a retail title, it could have been so much more. A more expansive move-set, some variations in gameplay such as half pipes or grinds, maybe some different modes such as slalom and a character creation mode would have made for a great snowboarding game that could slide into the path of SSX or 1080. That is the game that the Switch needs and the snowboarding game we want. Now it just ends up as one of the many budget titles out there that will be snowed under by the plethora of other games on the eShop. And that is a shame.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Snowboarding The Next Phase is a good-looking, well controlling snowboard game. Being a budget title severely limits it though, and it lacks different game modes, play styles or a big moveset. What it does it does fine, but it mostly makes me wish for a full-blown snowboarding AAA title.
Good and fitting graphical style
Not much variation in the different environments
Not much variation in the mission types
Not much variation in the tricks you can pull off
Could have been so much more!