There’s a certain “doomed” aspect to snowboarding games that leaves the genre buried under an avalanche of more interesting extreme sports games. Not since Amped 3 have we seen the mountains of the world carved and buttered with the slickest gameplay you’ve ever seen — even SSX (2012) couldn’t bring that magic back, and we’ve seen many competitors step up to the plate. Is Shredders the next big leap into glory, or another painful descent?
This is the debut title from Foam Punch Games, a team made in collaboration with the Belgian studio I-Illusions, and Swedish developers Let It Roll. I-Illusions cut their teeth on the VR title Space Pirate, which saw modest success, whereas Let It Roll broke out with The Snowboard Game, which Shredders gets a lot of its DNA from, albeit with a new fancy story.
You play as an extension of yourself who hangs out with an Aussie named Scotty, who hosts a YouTube channel dedicated to showcasing godlike snowboarding skills. After meeting up with a lass by the name of Lisa, you decide to carve your names into the snow and make this mountain yours. Along the way, you’ll also meet snowboarding pros like Arthur Longo and Leanne Pelosi, although given how everyone is constantly wearing ski masks and goggles, you only have the game's word that they’re there.
Alright, so Shredders is an independent title, that much is clear. No one will show their face, and furthermore, your character isn’t really a presence. Sure, you can follow these pros around, do sick tricks, butter up the pow pow, etc, etc, but a lot of this will always be in the shadow of personality. In fact, I dare say the game almost gaslights you into believing you didn’t do anything the whole game.
Since nobody has a face in Shredders, be it due to budgetary constraints, the recent pandemic forcing different approaches, or even an oversight, it’s hard to feel an attachment to anything. It doesn’t help that your character doesn’t have a voice either, so you’re never leading the charge in these death-defying stunts. Scotty will always say “We did this” or “We won!”, never “Aww, this dude, they went hard on the slopes, they got gold!”
It’s a small gripe, but it manifests into something much stronger considering how little of a space you occupy in Shredders. Almost no effort is put into making you feel like a part of the world, and a large part of that comes from the truly pitiful sound design and audio mixing. Your only audio option to turn down is the music — a low-key but enticing EDM effort from Jennifur. Not only that, but it’s quite clear that nobody is on a mountain. You can hear the acoustics of the enclosed room where these characters are “screaming” for you to make the gap; it’s almost surreal.
Speaking of surreal, there was one point during a cutscene involving small doll versions of the two characters Scotty and Lisa where I thought “Am I out of touch?” I was aware of the wacky hijinks in front of me, but I felt nothing. Whether the mood was set appropriately or not, maybe there’s the off-chance that I, as a gamer and culture lover, have grown past silly stuff like this, and the kids were right to enjoy such a thing. Is that true?
I’m going to go with “no”. While adults would consider the content of what the characters will say and do as “cringe” or “annoying”, kids will have a harder time grasping the awkward mission design. Most objectives will involve you following other snowboarders as you’ll either attempt to follow them to a place, copy their tricks, or beat their scores. Most missions will also have bonus objectives which usually require the player to beat score thresholds, or do deathly specific tricks, but that’ll also find you wrangling with one of the worst control schemes put into an extreme sports game.
This is Shredders’ problem, right here. The game wants to evoke a “realistic” portrayal of snowboarding, which is absolutely fine if you wanna talk about landings or rotations, but that doesn’t explain a needlessly complex control scheme. Just the mere act of trying to perform a front flip is such a convoluted mess of combined button presses, that… I have to explain this, just play along for a moment, imagine you’re holding that Xbox controller for just a second, we’ll get there.
So you’re lining up on the ramp, and you’re ready to ollie! Hold down that right trigger and then also hold the left thumbstick down, but then also hold the right stick down which Shredders promises it helps with rotation. You’re just about to board off the ramp, so let go of the right trigger and push both sticks up. If you’re actually rotating forward, then congratulations! Now you may or may not need to let go of both sticks while holding the left trigger to prepare your landing, because, despite such complexity, the game would rather leave it to fate as to whether or not you land or just float sideways for three seconds.
All of this. For one front flip.
If you want to call this an attempt at a realistic portrayal of how riders approach tracks and the tricks they perform, then fine, but the idea of forgoing simplicity in certain areas is absurd. So much is packed into so few of the buttons and triggers available that it alienates the player into believing they don’t know how to ride when in reality, they’re being duped by the idea of realism. The A button isn’t used even once to perform anything in this entire game, which is just a horrific oversight.
The best thing to do in Shredders is nothing at all. Forget about Scotty and Lisa using you for their personal gains and the asinine mission design requiring triple frontflips; just take in the sights of this one mountain range. The movement-based aspect of gameplay does reward skill quite well, even if this is another factor hampered by the awful control scheme. In order to slow down and brake, you have to hold both sticks down diagonally, which is just as awkward as you’d expect.
If you consider Shredders as an experiment for a grander plan, it’s an acceptable theory, if it wasn’t for the developer's earlier work with The Snowboard Game. Truth be told, the game is so scattershot in its approach, so uninterested in curating an environment, so despondent to your involvement, that it drags the entire experience down to a muted trip through a snowstorm. There’s nothing to see but a dull white.
Think of it as literally sick as opposed to figuratively.
Shredders (Reviewed on Xbox X|S)
The game is unenjoyable, but it works.
Needlessly complex controls dragging down a robust system, a storyline uninterested in upping the ante to wacky hijinks or otherwise, and a world that fails to acknowledge your existence, Shredders performs self-sabotage by seemingly not performing at all.