German developer Fishlabs has given us a surprise before the release of its much anticipated Galaxy on Fire 2 extension Valkyrie arriving later this month. Its in-house Abyss engine has already left great games on the App Store including the already mentioned space trader and "the Sega Rally of iPhones" Rally Master Pro 3D. Now its time to explore one of the less popular genres which is present in almost every gaming platform.
Snowboard Hero [iTunes Link] is a sports/action extreme snowboarding game where you compete against other players in different disciplines to make Shaun White look like a newbie. Playing as one of the wacky characters included, you will learn new tricks, unlock new events, tracks and gear by completing a wide variety of competitions. Just like many other snowboarding games with a career option, you'll start with pretty simple tracks to more complex freestyle challenges which increase difficulty as you get the hang of the game.
Speaking about the tracks, Fishlabs has chosen to use short courses specially catered for mobile gamers: every race can be finished in under a minute or so. The six different courses didn't seem like a lot, but they include several alternative routes, so there is an element of exploration too, which will help you to either earn more trick points of get to the finish line faster. The disciplines included range from speedrun, freestyle, slalom, race, time bonus and the combination of these, where you'll need to put in different skills to get the highest rating.
Unlike other snowboarding games that rely a bit more on the simulation side, in Snowboard Hero focuses on single player events, leaving races as the only discipline with contenders. I always likes pushing other players and see them fall in Amped, but this is just not present here. Unfortunately, there is no multiplayer option yet, which could be really fun using Game Center integration.
There are two elements that make Snowboard Hero qualify for a good grade. Tilt-based controls work like a charm in this game and you are only left to tap on the screen to perform tricks and activate boosts. Speaking of which, the swipes soon get repetitive and you end up doing the same tricks of the short repertoire: only six basic tricks plus other four unlockables. Every character has its own style tricks, but the gestures to trigger them are the same. It looks to me that they went for simplicity, since swipe combinations can be mastered in your first or second attempt.
A second highlight is the graphics. Not surprisingly, Fishlabs' experience in lighting and background modeling contribute in a great way to the end product experience. You can ride during the day, dusk and night, all with superb detailing and realism. The character design is on the cartoony side that we are used to in these games. Gentlemen, watch out for the huge boobs of the female characters in the game.
We have seen previous attempts to make the ultimate snowboarding iPhone game before: Ezone's Crazy Snowboard is a very decent contender packed with loads of content and short doses of fun for the casual player. Perhaps only let down by the controls. X2 Games also tried its luck with X2 Snowboarding, which features a funky 3D style that will remind you of GTA Chinatown Wars. Those tired of waiting for EA's endlessly delayed SSX iPhone version can finally practice some nasty tricks with Snowboard Hero.
If you are a fan of the genre, please stop asking about SSX and go for a game that truly feels natural to a mobile platform.
All things considered, Snowboard Hero is great news for the iOS gaming scene. The ridiculous characters are mixed with plenty of competitions, gear customization options and challenges that will surely keep you hooked for a while. The controls and graphics are spot on and will surprise you this is an actual iPhone game. Snowboard Hero might not be the most original snowboarding game you can find, but it delivers big time and its production value is unquestionable.