This time on the channel, I want to take a look at Shaun Palmer for the Gameboy Color. Well, want is a strong word. This was an impulse buy. I saw it at the game store complete with the box and manual and stuff for a couple of bucks. I figured it would at least look nice on my shelf. And after sitting there for a year, I finally decided to pop it in to my Gameboy.
Before we get into it though, I wanted to show you the manual for a second, especially the Shaun White bio. He looks like a little kid here. He’s about 15. I just thought that was kind of funny. And we have to ring every last drop of enjoyment as we can from this game, because there’s not too much to go around.
Alright, let’s play the game.
This is what the game looks like. It’s not very exciting, but you can’t expect much more. This is the Gameboy Color after all. It’s got 2 buttons, and no 3D capabilities, so this really isn’t that bad. You steer with the up and down buttons, which generally works. But just like in 720, you actually have to turn if you want to go downhill. You’ll get stuck banging against a wall like this more often than you can imagine. Right on the d-pad will make you lean forward. I guess it should make you go faster, but it doesn’t seem to do anything. Back doesn’t seem to do anything either.
But what about tricks? How can they squeeze a decent trick system onto 2 buttons? Here’s how it works – the A button is crouch and ollie. Just like you might expect. If you tap it in the air, you’ll spin 180. Tap it a bunch of times to get higher spins. Or, hit it in combination with a direction and you’ll do a grab. Left-right and right-left will be some kind of special trick.
The B button is for braking, and ALSO for slides. Slides are technically automatic, but they don’t work a lot of the time. Hitting B in the air will make you turn sideways and then you’ll lock into the slide a lot easier. You can do grinds like the wheelie and the nose 5-0.
This is just lazy. I’m no snowboarding expert, but you know who is? Shaun Palmer, Shaun White, or any of the other people in the game here. Did you really think that a board with no wheels has a trick called a ‘wheelie’? Don’t be stupid.
Uh, okay I guess some people call it that. But that’s not on a rail, so the point still stands!
So you’ve got grabs, spins and grinds. Let’s get into the freestyle mode of the career and see what we’ve got to do. Pretty basic stuff. High score, higher score, collect some letters, and… 9 ball, corner pocket? OK, let’s just work on some of the stuff I know how to do.
So I ride through the level, doing tricks and grinds and stuff, and… I got nowhere close to the high score. This is the first level, and I’m nowhere near the score I need! What’s going on?
Luckily, I have the actual game booklet, so I checked it out. And you need to build combos with manuals. Do a giant drop, land in a manual, then keep it going. The manuals aren’t worth any points, but they just allow you to link something together and build your multiplier. This makes some kind of sense in theory but it really doesn’t work.
You tap up-down as you land, which you’re probably used to from all the Tony Hawk games. But a good amount of the time, it just doesn’t work. I can swear I’m doing it right, but it doesn’t happen.
Also, you’ll lose your manual if you run into things. Considering how small the screen is and how little you can actually see at any given moment, it’s tough to avoid some of the stuff you run into, especially when you hit a downhill spot, like I mentioned before.
But the worst part is that the manual will only last a couple of seconds before your rider automatically lands it. So you can’t wait it out until the next jump. You’re always in a hurry to get out of that manual and jump on something. There’s very little you can do on flat, and you can’t just ollie back into manual, so you’ll find yourself throwing your character at a rail that’s too far away and messing up your line.
Not that the grinds work very well anyway. It’s pretty common to be grinding a series of rails, or benches or cars or whatever, and just not locking in on one of them. You’re obviously lined up right, and it should work without having to hit anything. But so often, it just doesn’t.
ect with, as if you’re actually turning left. Really weird. You’ve got that little shadow under you to help you figure out how to line yourself up, but it rarely helps.
After quite a bit of practice, I finally managed to figure out how to land some decent combos and get higher scores. I was able to get the first few levels. But the last one wants 50,000 points! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten more than 20, and I was really putting everything into it. With only 4 levels, the difficulty ramps up stupidly fast.
One of the other challenges is to collect the letters to SHRED. SKATE letters work great in the Tony Hawk series, so why not here? It’s the same reason why collecting stuff always sucks in snowboarding games. As soon as you pass it, it’s gone. There’s no turning around and picking it up. You have to have a perfect run, and that’s it. If the SHRED letters are pretty far down the level, it might take you a minute and a half to get there. If you miss, you start over. That’s all you can do. And since the level looks completely bland and nothing stands out, they’re easy to miss, so you’re guaranteed to spend at least an hour getting these. So much of the game feels like it’s just padding itself out to waste your time.
Another obvious example of that is the completion time challenge. These are usually really close – a good run might get you a second or two ahead of the time you need. That means that you can’t do anything else while you’re going for the time – you can’t waste time doing tricks and risking a bail, or exploring to find letters and gaps. So you’ll spend at least a few runs trying to get that time.
The last thing here is the gaps. And these can be pretty annoying. Of course. It just gives you the name of the gap, which is usually pretty easy to decipher. “9 ball, corner pocket” obviously has something to do with a pool table, but you don’t really know what. I have to grind one of these pool tables and knock the ball in, maybe? Well, no. After a few attempts, I figured out that you have to grind them all in one combo. Although, because of the way the grinds work, that’s easier said than done. And you don’t know whether you got it or not until you reach the finish line.
In this one, I had to grind 4 cars in a combo. So I hit these 3, land in a manual and hit a forth one. Nope. Not good enough. You have to specifically hit THESE 4. But it’s not going to tell you that.
One level wants me to ride the lift. I never figured that one out.
This one seems obvious though. I have to do a 3 trick combo on a blowhole. I found a hole with a tiny whale jumping around in it. This has got to be it, right? Well, I did a 3 trick combo, finished my run, and nothing happened. If this isn’t the blowhole, why is there a whale here? Just to mess with you? Just to purposely frustrate you and make you mad? Why would they do this? I’m assuming it is right, and it just didn’t register for no good reason.
Let’s try another mode to cleanse our palettes a little. Here’s the super pipe, which could be fun. You get this half pipe that goes on and on, and then with about 15 seconds left, it will end. I get what they’re going for – if you bail, you don’t get more time than if you had a clean run. But the graphics make no indication that you’re getting close to the end, so it really sucks when you’re close to the next score limit and it just stops.
Of course, the whole mode sucks. The controls are the same, for the most part. You hold left or right to get speed coming into the wall. Instead of ollieing, you just air out… to a completely random amount of height. How could they mess this up? I hold left or I hold right. I either bail or land perfectly clean. There’s no real variation in here that would explain why I get 10 feet this time, then don’t even make it to the lip the next time.
But I think I figured out why. This mode is just too boring. All you use is the A button. Try to do a couple of tricks in the same air, and that’s it. No manuals or grinds or anything. If you got the same amount of air every time, then you’d get really bored. So in a fun way to mix it up, they took out the predictability and control that you have, and make it so you have to react to what the random number generator cooked up for you. It’s infuriating. I don’t think I did better than silver in any of these events just because of how frustrating it is. And they’re long, so each attempt will really add up.
The last mode is the race. These are weird. Yes you can lean forward and backward, but that really doesn’t seem to do anything. If you can stay on the course, turning in the right spots, and if you can avoid all the random crap in the level, you’ll probably win. But you never really know how you’re doing until you cross the finish line because you won’t be close enough to anyone else to see them.
After I beat pretty much every challenge, I unlocked my first new board, which doubled or tripled all my stats. But there wasn’t that much left to do. There’s this last level with the insane score total I’m supposed to reach, but having a better board that spins faster really isn’t that much help. And going faster probably makes it harder. You just can’t react on time to the stuff that flies at you without memorizing the whole level. And I’m not going to do that.
After you complete a couple of challenges, you might want to save the game and come back later. It’s a portable game system with a career mode that you can’t beat in one sitting, so of course you can save your game, right?
[Sigh] Well, no, not really. It has a password system! If you’re young and you didn’t have to suffer through this kind of stuff back in the day, let me describe for you how it worked. A lot of games like Zelda or Final Fantasy, had battery backups. You’d save your game, and the battery would keep a section of the cartridge ROM ‘awake,’ so your game would still be there when you started it back up. These batteries last for about 20 years. Chances are, your original copy of Pokemon Red still has your game saved on it.
But, if a publisher wanted to be really cheap, they’d go with a fun password system. For simpler games, you can get by with a short password. It’s just an encrypted chunk of information about what level you’re on and how many lives you have. But this game has much more going on. You have to know how many levels you have unlocked, which challenges you completed, which boards you have unlocked, what character you’re using and what you have equipped. So it gives you this monster password that takes forever to fill out.
I know this might seem like a small thing, but this game is really frustrating. You’ll probably want to put it down a lot. But every time you pick it back up, you’ll be punished for it.
What else can you do in this game? There’s a versus mode! But it requires a link cable, and a person you hate, so I didn’t get a chance to try that out. There’s also a free ride mode, where you can just do the same stuff without getting any credit for it.
I tried out the superpipe here, and it’s literally the same thing. Except I think I got enough points for gold finally, but it just didn’t matter. I somehow did a 7 trick combo in one air. I realized that I get more air on the right side of the ramp. I tried turning around in the flatbottom in case that made any difference, and it didn’t. Oh well.
I went as far as I could in the career mode. This last level is really hard, and really annoying. Every time you restart, it shows you this self indulgent cutscene of the level to show it off. It’s literally the same stuff as every other level, except there are caves that you have to go through. You crash into a wall, lose your combo, and then steer up to them. I wouldn’t be bragging about this design too much.