Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder
Such is the popularity of the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series and gameplay mechanics that it has now spawned a second variation. Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboarder follows Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX into the Activision O2 series.
Swapping skateboard for snowboard is not as easy as you would think it is. Unlike THPS the nature of a snowboarding game means that you are constantly descending a ski slope. As a result, lifts and snowmobiles are placed around the slopes so you can return to the top of the slope should you miss certain targets. This is a commendable workaround by Dear Soft as it alleviates what could have been a major problem.
majority of the gameplay has been transferred directly from THPS 3. The
manual and the revert have been included and implemented in much the same
way. What is different from THPS 3 though, is the difficulty involved
with pulling some of the special tricks. I played this game before I played
THPS 3 and I have to say that I struggled with it. After playing THPS
3, with its excellent tutorial mode I returned to SPPS to find the game
more straight forward. What I'm trying to say is that SPPS doesn't go
out of its way to make newbies comfortable in the same way that THPS does.
For those of you who haven't played any of these games (THPS 1,2,3 & MHPBMX) let me fill you in. Basically the game play involves you creating a snowboarder, picking his/her costume and appearance and then embarking on a career mode. First of all you only have access to the Donner Ski Ranch. On each of the slopes there are nine goals, each goal you achieve earns you a sponsor. After you have achieved a certain number of sponsors you unlock new boards and courses. The choice of goals offers a nice amount of variety. The goals consist of achieving three different scores, namely boarder, pro and sick which is usually a fantastic total; also there are other goals such as collecting the course logos or finding secret sponsors.
To score points you have to perform tricks. These usually require you to be airborne although some tricks involve sliding. For optimum effect these tricks shouldn't be performed in isolation. The idea is to follow one trick immediately with another one, these are know as combos and score points far more richly than performing isolated tricks. To aid you stringing the tricks together there is the revert button and manual move. You can also perform special tricks which further increases the points even more. The special meter grows with every successful trick you perform and disappears completely if you should fall.
Thankfully all info is text based. The mission goals, trick controls and other details are all given in text. In fact hardly anything is given vocally. Prior to starting a course a cutscene shows you the goals for that course. A nice touch is that as you complete the goals they are removed from the cutscene. All of the goal in the cutscenes are shown in text.
How about the two-player modes? Well actually SPPS does a good job on the multiplayer side. There are four varieties of play. There's freestyle, Palmer X, Push and Horse. All of these are fine but my personal opinion is that Horse is the best of the bunch. With Horse you take it in turns to perform tricks. The player with the lower score, inferior trick, gets a letter of the word Horse, or whatever word you choose. The first player to spell the chosen word loses. It may not sound too great but believe me it definitely makes you pull out those great tricks.
So how does it compare with THPS 3 and other snowboarding games? Well it's best described as technically great but from an entertainment point of view it falls short of THPS 3. The skateboard is far more forgiving than the snowboard and tricks seem easier to pull off in THPS 3. Landing safely after a trick is an art in itself and will take time to master. Compared to titles like SSX Tricky then it really is a different kind of game. SSX Tricky is racing based while SPPS is trick based. If you're prepared to put the time and effort into SPPS then you will truly get a lot from it but if you like quick blasts then SSX Tricky may be more your cup of tea.
Overall Game Rating: 8.2/10 Shaun Palmer's Pro Snowboader is a commendable attempt at bringing the Tony Hawk's Pro Skateboarder gameplay mechanics to the slopes. The only thing to say against it is that it is not as immediately accessible as THPS, as the tricks can be more difficult to pull off, not to mention the added difficulty of landing. Those who are familiar with this type of game shouldn't find any problem though. For those who haven't played these type of games before I would recommend THPS 3 first and then come back to this.
Deaf Gamers comment: Provides full access to deaf gamers. SPPS is an enjoyable snowboarding experience that takes time to get into but once you have got into it, it will keep you occupied for many months to come.