At one point, extreme sports games were a dime a dozen. Nowadays, they’re a much more rare breed. Thus, it’s no wonder why Snowboarding: The Next Phase is the first (and so far only) snowboarding game on the Switch—and the console is nearly two years old. Due to there being such a void, I was instantly intrigued by this game’s announcement.
Carrying a subtitle like “The Next Phase” suggests that this must mark a jump beyond the levels of the past. Unfortunately, that’s not at all the case. In reality, Snowboarding: The Next Phase is just about the most simplistic snowboarding title I’ve played to date.
While the game does feature a large number of tracks spread across different real-world mountain ranges like Alaska, Japan, and Russia, there isn’t as much variety as I expected. When playing through the career, you tackle three missions per each of the courses scattered across each zone. There are three tiers of missions, Bronze, Silver, and Gold, and as you complete one tier, the next is unlocked. The number of missions you complete is also counted towards unlocking the next zone. With there being 11 zones in all, it quickly became a slog to try and complete all the different missions.
The main reason I felt like this is that the missions get super repetitive very quickly. They’re all just a slight variation of the same thing: “do X trick for X amount of times,” “collect X amount of Geotags,” “find the special item,” etc. Just as bland as the mission variety are the environments themselves. Even though the game features so many different locales, the themes don’t really stand out that much from each other.
The course design is also surprisingly lacking. There are no set pieces like caves and log cabins, or interactive points like grind rails and half pipes. There are basically two designs: a narrow pathway and an open mountain face with numerous hills and ramps. Seeing that you have to keep backtracking to past courses in order to complete enough missions to progress, the bland design of it all causes everything to mesh together.
What’s supposed to be the most exhilarating part of the game is also rather lacking: the trick system and (lacking) sense of speed. Don’t jump in expecting to pull off wild maneuvers like in the SSX days. Instead, Snowboarding: The Next Phase takes a far simpler approach. While it’s somewhat satisfying to chain tricks together, all you end up doing is a series of flips, spins, and grabs. There are special moments where slow-mo kicks in, and while this admittedly looks cool, it’s still nowhere near as flashy and engaging as the aforementioned snowboarding titles of the past. Yet, the game is extremely trigger happy when it comes to pictures, as it will save screenshots to your Switch album automatically after passing through special photo-ops. As you might imagine, this got very old after just a short time.
Another gripe I have with this game is its performance. While it usually maintains a smooth 60FPS, there are some courses that are locked to 30 FPS (and so are the menus). Considering how simple the cartoony art style is, this is surprising.
Had I not played other snowboarding titles like Steep and Snowboard SuperJam, I probably would have enjoyed this more. But by comparison, it just falls short. This isn’t a terrible snowboarding game; it’s just more tepid than expected. If you’re a fan of the titles I’ve mentioned or other classics like 1080, you’re better off sticking with them.
A review code was provided by the publisher.