Sloppy Landing

Snowboarding has carved out a beautifully niche corner of the video game market with nostalgic titles like 1080, Cool Boarders, and SSX even if I don’t want to believe the last one came out almost 10 years ago. While the spectacle of extreme sports has always meshed well with the more arcade-y side of the spectrum, an even more niche market instills a love for realism. Games like the original Skate and Skater XL have taken the technicality and skill of skateboarding to the thumbs of gamers with relative success.  So why not snowboarding?

Shredders looks to fill the snowboarding void (one of the last solely-snowboarding games was aptly titled The Snowboard Game in 2018) by taking the blueprint of what made Skate successful, adding a streamer/social media vibe ala The Crew, and smashing them together with help of some of the biggest names in the Snowboarding world. Combine all the above with a large mountain to traverse and over two dozen missions to get your feet wet and you’ve got a $30 indie recipe to success. At least I’d hoped.

Hitting tricks and running solid lines down the slope is the name of the game, but Shredders can get a little hand-crampy at times in its attempt to mimic and pay homage to its predecessors. Tricks are done by grabbing the left or right of your board with LB or RB while moving the Right Stick wherever you want for a designated trick. You’ll also need to use the Right Stick to prep which direction you want to spin.  You’ll also need to prep your jump by holding RT until release to get more air. You’ll also also need to hit LT before land to stabilize yourself. It can become a lot and most of the trick catalog slowly gets swallowed by the amount of input required to complete just one.

To combat this, Shredders takes its Campaign to teach you the ins and outs of the mountain. Each of the seven parts of the mountain are given a handful of missions that show you how to work on your skills and highlight the main locales and coolest lines to run. You follow along with your partner in crime, Scotty, as the two halves of Shreddageddon (you being the other half) look to conquer every square foot of the mountain and take part in The Invitational. These missions do a good job in honing your craft and are more intuitive than just a tutorial level, but Shredders has enough bugs and design flaws to make your experience harder than it needs to be.

When you bail you have the choice to Re-Shred, which is Shredders’ rewind button if you mess up a landing. Alternatively you can reset back to an initial drop point, but there’s no way to just…get up from your fall. You have to do one of the two and the Re-Shred can leave you with very little time to do what you want to, leaving you with a mess to navigate. If you’re in the middle of a trick and happen to tap a rail, there’s a chance the points from your previous trick will just not count and will only take the bonk for a fraction of the points. Very frustrating and very bad. But dude. Dude. The writing and voice quality is even worse.

Call me a millennial, but the writing feels unapologetically forced in trying to squeeze any droplets of laughs it can between missions and comes up dry more often than not. The amount of professional snowboarders is a welcome inclusion, but the recording for their lines are just awful. We are nearly approaching NBA2K15 bad. Lines are read without any type of conversational flow to them and the audio quality at times sounds like it was recorded via Zoom call. It’s not good at all.

Like the script for the Pro Snowboarders, missions will eventually start to stagnate in originality. A majority of the missions will ask you to follow an AI rider through a pre-set line with a few side objectives to try and hit. There’s the off mission where you try to do tricks while breaking branches, or grinding a concert stage that tries to include something of a lively exuberant mountaintop filled with pros, but then you get six more missions that are 30-45 seconds long following a snowboarder and doing…whatever you want really.

And therein lies the big problem with Shredders and most games like it: the game’s fun is not built by the developers, but through the tools provided by the game. You, the player, must make your own fun even if the game doesn’t quite do the best job in providing the tools. You’re given plenty of spots to drop in and tear through the mountain, and there’s even multiplayer to travel through with a buddy, but Shredders just feels empty in both structure and reward. There’s nothing to really play for outside of a small batch of sponsored apparel and one-upping your best score through a specific line.

Skate lived and died on this tactic, and with a couple sequels and much needed improvements to its formula it found a cult status that has people still playing Skate 3 now 12 years since its release. But in 2022, Shredders plants itself on the first step on the long staircase that Skate started on back in 2007: an interesting concept shoddily built that will need time, improvements, and a devout fan base to see it become what it truly wants to be.

Reviewed on Xbox Game Pass.