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Snowboard Kids DS

Winter makes for some significant changes. The days become shorter, offering a brief glimpse of daylight before the cold dusk settles in for the night. The trees are bare of any leaves, offering their branches to be trimmed into something more manageable. The birds migrate south, the tide slightly changes, and the weather gets nasty on a frequent basis. But a thousand feet higher in altitude, winter means only one thing: snow. That soft, wet white stuff slowly drifts to the ground every day, casting the landscape in a blanket of frosty goodness. It’s at that point when all the Winter sports enthusiasts come out of hibernation, polishing their skis and snowboards as they climb to the highest peaks for their annual trip down the slope. For that brief window of time between the first snowfall and spring’s inevitable arrival, the mountains belong to snowboarders and their kin.

Go on pick random, be a man.

But in case you’d rather spend your winter curled up under the covers or slacking off on the couch, Snowboard Kids DS offers everything you need to get your winter sports fix. Winter has come to the world, covering several countries in fresh snow. Unable to resist the urge of competition, a handful of young snowboarders have emerged to show off their skills against one another. Some have entered the contest for fame and glory, while other have more personal motives. You must choose among these fine youngsters and grant them your talent,
technique and mad gaming skills. You’ll have to take on dangerous paths, avoid obstacles, and overcome some truly mighty opposition from your fellow snowboarders. Should you outdo the competition, you’ll emerge victorious, with a shiny trophy and a hopefully impressive high score as well.

Second? You amateur.

Your quest for glory will be littered with challenges, each of which will test your abilities to a fair extent. As with any other snowboarding game released within the last decade, Snowboard Kids DS requires you to fine tune the control of your character, making him speed up to stay in the race, jump over long chasms, and hug the countless curves that make up each course. However, glitchy walls and platforms, slightly lacking button responsiveness and inconsistent control issues make the game more a chore than fun. Should you feel the need to show off your skills, you’ll be able to perform a wide variety of tricks and stunts using different combinations of the shoulder and directional pad buttons. Not only will doing such tricks make you look cool in the heat of competition, but it’ll net you a fair amount of bonus points as well. Once you’ve done enough stunts, you’ll be granted a whole new set of tricks via the DS Touch Screen. Such tricks require you to tap certain areas of the screen, allowing you to execute some awesome moves and rack up a massive score.

If only I was ten years younger.

At first glance, Snowboard Kids DS looks and feels like the typical snowboarding game that we’ve all grown to love or despise. However, there is one aspect that keeps this game from sinking into the dark depths of mediocrity. Taking a concept from the Mario Kart series, this contest allows you to acquire items and unleash them upon your hapless competition. You’ll be able to throw fireballs, set proximity mines, build up walls, shock, and even cast a sleeping spell on the other contenders. These little pieces of mass destruction not only assist in your victory, but add a whole other level of strategy to your quest for the gold as well. However, the need for these items is not always present; the game’s overall ease requires little more than mastering the control scheme and using it to its fullest extent. Once you’ve finished all of the game’s not-so stellar difficulty levels, you’ll be able to participate in Slalom Mode, which focuses more on control and speed, and Boss Battle Mode, which allows you to take down some nasty foes with your favorite items. Indeed, this is not your typical SSX game.

This all looks a bit Mario Karty.

Despite these awesome features, Snowboard Kids DS might get stale fast. You’ll start off at the beginner’s level difficulty, and then work your way up through the ranks to the toughest challenges. Sure, this may add up to a fair amount of gameplay time if you beat the game with each character, but some may lack the patience necessary to do so. There are a decent variety of characters to chose from, each with their own speed, trick, and control stats. Each competitor has their own style of clothes, like Brad’s scorching hot flame costume or Jam’s long dreadlocks. They even have individual voice acting, though it is a little shrill and hard to understand at times. The characters 3D models and animations look a tad blocky and choppy, but there has been far worse on the DS. At least the levels are somewhat decent, offering a few different runs for the prospective snowboarder. You’ll get to view the vineyards during a day in France, glide down the slopes of Japan and China at night, and dodge double-decker buses in London and cable cars in San Francisco. You’ll get to see castles, temple gates, flag banners, and other nifty surroundings. These wonderfully detailed levels are what save this game from an otherwise mediocre presentation.

Fourth? That’s ridiculous, you might as well give up now.

To be fair, Snowboard Kids DS had a pretty high standard to meet. The original Snowboard Kids was a cult classic for N64 owners everywhere. For the most part, the transition from console to handheld went well. However, the restrictive controls and glitchy levels hurt the game’s overall appeal. If there had been a more expansive single-player mode, smoother animations, and a more variety of levels, Snowboard Kids DS could have been a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, this falls short of the other competitive multiplayer games for the DS, lost deep in the shadows of far more popular games. Is it a terrible game? Hardly. But there is definite room for improvement. In the meantime, we can only hope that the next Snowboard Kids game learns from its predecessor’s shortcomings.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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