DS Review: Snowboard Kids DS

"Close" is the only word that comes to mind when playing Snowboard Kids DS. An update of sorts even though it bears little resemblance to the N64 original, the changes to the game ruin all of the fun. "Close" comes into play because this is one of those games that has a solid engine running underneath it, yet it's broken because of its design.

While the N64 edition focused on snowboarding tricks and racing, the DS turns it into a mish-mash kart racer. It's not even a good one at that. After picking from a stack of stereotypical riders, you'll head out onto the course and be blasted with various objects from one of the three other opponents. It is possible to dodge these attacks, but the window to do so and the timing requirements mean you may do more damage to yourself if you try to move out of the way than take the hit.

Using objects (after picking them up from boxes of course) is simple. You're also given a basic attack that's powered up as the race moves on. It's hard to think of the game as a racing title with all of this combat. It's impossible to focus on one aspect, even during the boss battles (yes, boss battles). These require the player to fire off projectiles to impede the progress of whatever it is you're fighting and cross the finish line first.

Course design is heavily linear, sticking the player (usually) in between walls on a thin strip of mountain. A few shortcuts exist, and you'll need to take them in order to win most of the time. For whatever baffling reason, these races have laps, and to progress onto the next one, you'll need to squeeze through a hard to see portal at the end of the course. Lap two won't start until you've made it through, let alone found it.

It's all a shame too, because alone on the courses in time trials, the wildly fun trick system and excellent base controls are wonderful. It feels quite a bit like a toned down version of SSX, with fantastic flips, grabs, and a point system. It's fun to do, at least when using the buttons.

Like too many DS games, SBK uses the touch screen because the developer felt they had to. To gain speed, you need to rapidly tap into the touch screen. To wake your character up after becoming a victim to a sleep attack, you need to yell into the microphone. All of this makes it impossible to focus on the top screen and actually race. The special touch screen tricks, accessible when a meter on the bottom of the screen is filled, take so long to execute, you'll usually be on the ground before you can pull them off.

Off the nicely rendered courses, you have the opportunity to purchase new items, characters, and boards. They might as well offer them as upgrades since if the game is played right, you'll conveniently have enough money to purchase them at the end of the three classes. The unlockable characters will take more work, and the end result isn't worth the effort.

Snowboard Kids is lacking focus, and it's a critical flaw that sends it into obscurity. The N64 original is proof that basic racing on this style of engine would work (as is SSX), but this DS version doesn't seem to get the point. You'll find yourself wishing for more time trials so you can use the engine when it's at its best, and shy away from the main World Tour.

(** out of *****)

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