It’s been a long time since the Tony Hawk games set the standard for and dominated extreme sports gaming. There have been several snowboarding franchises over the years that have attempted a frozen twist on the established formula. Shredders is very much an indie game and it had to cut some corners, which it doesn’t even try to hide — instead blatantly lampshading in spots. I was able to put a couple of hours into it, although my progress was stifled by a very high bar as far as tricks are concerned. But the question stands: is Shredders worth it?
Shredders, believe it or not, has a story with characters, voice acting, and a lot of humor. Cutscenes frequently accompany the missions and I often found myself laughing at the dialogue. The game’s writing is honestly quite funny. You play as the second half of a YouTube channel named Shredageddon (a name the game itself occasionally derides) alongside your partner, the lovable idiot Scotty. You and Scotty are scouted by a woman named Lisa who works for a big brand, and the three of you set out to connect with real-life snowboarders and get your names out there.
The voice acting from your partners is fantastic. The two are affable and the actors deliver their lines with aplomb. Some sections take a sledgehammer to the fourth wall, but many see the two interact with the aforementioned real-life snowboarders. A surprising amount of these ‘boarders are in the game. Their voice performances appear to be the real deal, which is why the quality of the voice acting from the rest of the cast varies wildly. And that is perfectly understandable. However, the game doesn’t believably model these characters, so everyone always has a black ski mask covering their head. No faces, no hair, no nothing. It’s pretty fucking creepy.
Up on a mountain
The basic goal of the game is for Shredageddon to make a name for itself and for the duo to get access to an invitational that takes place over the weekend. You’ll accomplish this by taking on missions, which you can select from the map screen. There are multiple maps, each with its own missions — some of which are purely optional. These missions move the plot forward and have a lot of varied goals. Each comes with three smiley faces that you can get by meeting goals.
Your missions are varied. There are races, or sometimes you follow another snowboarder, or you’ll be doing tricks, among other things. Each map is a wide slope, and selecting a mission will place a travel marker. Of course, you can just hang around the maps without doing missions. There are tons of ramps and rails to find, plus collectibles that grant you new items to equip on your avatar. Your avatar is, of course, the other half of Shredageddon. They’re often present during cutscenes, but they don’t talk. You can choose their tops, hats, pants, shoes, boards, and other accessories.
You can retry whichever mission you want from the map screen, which also tells you how many smiley faces you’ve accrued. There doesn’t appear to be much reason to get all of these faces outside of completion, but you’ll earn one for the main objective and the other two for side objectives. These are often as simple as getting a high enough score or pulling off a specific trick. There are hours of missions too, so Shredders doesn’t exactly skimp on content.
Drag me down
As Shredders is a snowboarding game, it should come as no surprise that the focus is on riding a snowboard down a mountain. You control your character with the left stick, plus you can jump, use grabs, and spin. You can even call a snowmobile to pull you at times, which is pretty neat. While the movement and physics feel all right, I really don’t like the tricking here. It’s a lot like Tony Hawk, really. You’ll jump and do grabs and spins afterward. The left and right bumpers need to be held in tandem with directions on the right stick to pull off certain grabs, such as melons, tail grabs, and the like.
Having to constantly hold buttons and alternate while using the right stick feels very awkward to me, and I still haven’t gotten the hang of it. Similarly, spins feel sluggish and unpredictable. Sometimes I’d be able to pull them off, other times my character would just sort of move a bit in the air. The controls are a special mixture of cumbersome and unreliable, which makes for a pretty unsatisfactory experience for an extreme sports game. After a couple of hours, gameplay just feels janky and unnatural, which leads to further complications.
I truly intended to do a full review for Shredders, but I had to pivot due to an unforeseen consequence of the above. I got to a major progression mission where I needed to do at least one trick on command. If you can’t fulfill the main objective of a mission, you’re unable to continue the game. The trick felt basically impossible for me to do, so I wasn’t able to successfully complete it. For instance, the simplest trick here was simply doing a 1260-degree spin after the first jump. But the jump is so shallow that I could only pull off a 720. Of course, I might just truly suck at this game and everyone else will nail it without issue.
The other tricks were even harder, including a 1440-degree rotation while doing a flip combined with horizontal rotation. Up to this point, Shredders had never once had a mandatory objective that was even close to this demanding, and I simply don’t see how I can pull off these moves. I’m sure some people who the controls actually click for will find Shredders to be worth it. But the clunky, unreliable controls and high barrier for some of the missions definitely make it that I personally can’t recommend it, even if I appreciate the variety and humor the game offers.