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Shaun White Snowboarding Road Trip

Grab your balance board and hitch a ride with us as Wii travels in a new direction

Cast your mind back to 15 July, the day of Nintendo's E3 2008 press conference. Supermum and Nintendo Of America exec Cammie Dunaway took to the stage, and within five minutes a million Ninty fans had chewed their fists off in embarrassment as she delivered a disastrously pitched, cringe-inducing opening gambit.

Sorry to make you relive those moments (if you missed it all, lucky you) but there is a point: while Dunaway was giving it the 'I'm so smiley and happy and isn't life fun and wheeee!', there was actually a game being demoed. It was the balance board-compatible Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip. Yeah, we'd put it to the back of our minds too.

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What makes that press conference calamity all the more galling is that SWS is the best game in the somewhat ailing skating/snowboarding genre that we've played in years. It looks great, it plays superbly, it's amusing and full of character, there are loads of multiplayer options, and perhaps most significantly, it pushes the use of balance board technology to a new level, albeit a level that we all knew the Wii Fit kit was destined for. If you're bereft of balance board then worry not as the game works just as well with a remote, albeit in a different way.

There's a story of sorts that the game's built around. Three mates - two girls and a bloke - get a call from their friend Shaun White, who tells them to haul their asses over to a Canadian ski resort and hook up with him for some fun on the slopes. So off they trot on a trip that also takes them to Chile, the Alps, Japan and the States, collecting new friends (ie, new riders to play as) on the way.

Gently funny and well delivered cartoon cutscenes pin the story together, as does the odd phone call from Shaun and the occasional email. Inconsequential it may be, but the story is pitched really nicely and breathes life into a game that could easily have been po-faced.

Each location acts as a hub - displayed via a resort map - where you can access a number of different events (see the 'Events Horizon' box for more on this), with each event having a Dare challenge and a Respect challenge. There are several tiers of difficulty per event so there's plenty of stuff on offer. We're not about to give you a lollipop for guessing that completing a set number of these challenges unlocks new locations and new riders.

So to the meat of the game, the all-important tearing down the virtual slopes and pulling off fancy tricks while perching on your balance board. With the plastic positioned lengthways towards the telly, your back foot is used to steer the board, putting your weight in the desired direction to turn. For sharp turns - carving, to use the proper parlance - you hold the B button down on the remote as you shift your weight. Shifting your weight to your front foot while you reduce the pressure at the rear makes you go faster, your on-screen rider tucking themselves up accordingly.

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Now we're no experts at the real thing, but this is pretty much how we remember being taught to control a snowboard on a trip to the Canadian Rockies a few years back. It certainly feels right, even if it is missing certain body parts freezing up as a result of the all-too-frequent bails and bumps. Back in the game, jumps are performed by making a pumping motion with your legs. Again, this feels right, but that's based on us actually being able to ollie on a real-world skateboard.

Once you've launched yourself off a ramp or jump or whatever, you then pull tricks using a combination of foot movement on the board and holding the A and B buttons on the remote. In truth the trickery is pretty tough to get the hang of, at least initially. Hand, eye and foot co-ordination? Don't they know our poor male brains can only cope with one thing at once? Persevere and learn all the combos, though, and eventually it'll all come together.

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