If you took a traditional snowboarding game--SSX, for example--and crossed it with Mario Kart in some sort of Frankenstein experiment, you'd end up with something like SBK: Snowboard Kids. The teenybopper characters in Atlus' snow-themed racing game compete on downhill courses and perform tricks just like the characters in any run-of-the-mill snowboarding game would, but they also have the added benefit of being able to harass one another with weapons and items while out on the slopes. This unique marriage of genres succeeds for the most part, despite a minimalist selection of tricks and the fact that some shots and items are nearly impossible to defend against. If anything, the game's biggest shortfall is that the single-player experience is exhausted rather quickly.
SSX meets Mario Kart in this unique snow-themed racing game.
Players can take control of any of nine different teen phenoms, each with their own abilities, boards, and trick sets, and set out on any of seven courses in various race and trick competitions. Fans of the two Nintendo 64 Snowboard Kids games will recognize the cast in the DS game, as well as a few of the items, but not much else, as the courses in the sequel are entirely new and the organizational structure of the play options is more straightforward than it was in the N64 games. Gone is the 3D village where players could choose events, talk to other characters, and uncover new locations. The social aspects and wandering that gave the N64 games an extra dash of personality were left out of the DS game in favor of a portable-friendly menu structure that spells out matter-of-factly what events and options are available. Solo play modes include world tour, slalom, and boss battle. The world tour mode is the most involved, as it offers three different tournaments that present all of the game's courses with a variety of score and ranking goals. Points earned in all modes can be used to unlock the small handful of characters, boards, costumes, and courses that aren't initially available. There's also a multiplayer Wi-Fi mode, which allows as many as four players to compete using one or multiple game cards.
Out on the slopes, the game plays like a mixture of SSX and Mario Kart. As is true of any traditional snowboarding game, you ultimately want to end up in first place or at the top of the point standings, depending on what the event calls for. However, besides controlling the board and performing tricks, you and the other racers can also harass each other with item pickups and magical shots. Items can be picked up by running through the boxes that are strewn around the course. Meanwhile, each kid has the ability to shoot magical shots that automatically home in on nearby targets. The basic controls are similar to any other snowboarding game, with steering and tricks made possible by pressing directions on the D pad and holding the different buttons in midair. Generally speaking, it's easier to perform tricks in the DS game than it was in the two N64 games because fewer button inputs are necessary. In a controversial move, Atlus made it so that signature tricks are performed by tapping hot spots on the touch screen. That's sure to annoy people who are averse to the touch screen, but, on the upside, there's never any fumbling with the stylus, because the hot spots are large enough to tap with a finger. The game also makes limited use of the microphone, requiring players to blow into the microphone in order to shake off status effects such as sleep and blindness.
Signature tricks are performed by tapping hot spots on the touch screen.
Some aspects of the game are more fleshed out than others. Even though there aren't that many of them, the courses are lengthy and interesting. Most have optional shortcuts. The variety of item pickups is also good. There's the usual assortment of speed boosters and land mines, as well as a few clever creations, such as the parachute, which slows victims down, or the fog bomb, which temporarily blinds its victims. Compared to other snowboarding games, and even the two previous Snowboard Kids games, the trick system in this game is rather simplistic. Grinding on rails is impossible, and only a handful of tricks can be chained together at any given opportunity. As it is, there really aren't all that many unique tricks to perform. Most characters only have two unique flips, spins, and grabs in their repertoire, which can be performed separately or in combination, as well as a pair of signature tricks.