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Shaun White Skateboarding: Moving in on Tony Hawk's territory?

The Flying Tomato takes on the Hawkman at his own game

Every extreme sport needs a figurehead, and in the case of hurtling down a mountainside strapped to a fibreglass plank, that honour goes to a man named Shaun White.

We immediately associate him with snowboarding, just as we associate Kelly White with surfing or Tony Hawk with ill-fated skateboard peripherals.

It's no surprise, then, to learn that his latest snowboarding game is... wait a minute, something's not right.

Someone's replaced the snow with tarmac, and put handrails up everywhere.

It's a strange move, the Flying Tomato muscling in on the Hawkman's territory, but it's not like he's taken up equestrianism - the sports are sort of similar to each other.

Even so, Shaun's gang of likeable cartoon 'boarders, returning from their snowy jaunt in 2008's 84%-scoring Road Trip, don't quite feel at home in the city, and on four wheels rather than none.

Maybe the fact that the city has been drained of colour and personality by the dictator-like Mayor has had something to do with it.

Well, it's not very homely is it? When you enter each smallish, openish area of the game's urban setting you're greeted by a collection of
angular, grey buildings, and by a sole citizen who does something wacky like live in a blimp.

Restoring the area to its former, graffiti daubed glory involves completing challenges, ollying and grinding, and executing tricks to your heart's content.

For some suspicious reason this doesn't make any pedestrians or animals return to the area, but does make it considerably more colourful, in the vein of Okami or de Blob.

There are a number of challenges to complete in each section of the city - the two areas we had access to were a university and a grindy bit by the beach - but once cleared, we couldn't find a compelling reason to return.

Sure, there are stickers to collect and additional goals to achieve during each challenge, but these only unlock costumes, skateboards or songs, none of which seemed that worthwhile.

There's nothing much to do in EA's Skate series either, but its intuitive, tactile skateboarding made such trinkets unnecessary.

(We're ignoring Skate It, by
the way, a game that lingers in the memory like a cabbagey fart in an elevator.) By contrast, the skateboarding here feels... well, not much like skating at all.

You see, skateboarding in real life is hard. We realised this as teenagers when we tried to do an olly and ended up in casualty looking uncannily like Mickey Rourke.

Shaun White's Skateboarding, on the other hand, is astoundingly easy.

You do tricks by holding A or B and flicking a direction with the Wii remote. To do more powerful manoeuvres, hold A and B, or charge one of them up for a couple of seconds.

There's no real skill involved, but that's not what bothers us - what bothers us is that tricks are so unsatisfying to pull off.

There's nothing to master, and consequently nothing much to feel when you successfully execute a 360 kick-flip hippy shovit manual (we think we got the terminology right).

We were hoping that when we synced up our unloved, dusty balance board the game would make more sense, but the device is so under-used it's essentially pointless.

Its primary use is for ollying - by tapping a foot down to lift you in the air - but you can also lean to grind, which in the end is more effort than it's worth.

There's no way to play the game without wielding a nunchuk and remote, as they're required to make your character move or start tricks.

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