There is nothing quite like strapping on a snowboard for the first time. The tingling chill of the winter wind sets your body abuzz, and the glistening blanket of pristine snow stretches endlessly in the distance, begging you to carve a path through its immaculate surface. When you first push off, you wobble and fall, dust off the snow, and fall again. But the first time you make it down a hill upright, or land a jump off a tiny bump, a wave of excitement courses through your body. It's an indescribable feeling that becomes slightly dulled over time, pushing you to continually try new tricks to keep the excitement level high. Shaun White Snowboarding: World Stage, like its predecessor released last year, captures the thrill of the sport beautifully with intuitive motion controls and high-flying aerial tricks, but it offers little to distinguish itself from the first game. The joy of winding your way down a mountain or landing a twisting, twirling leap has been tempered because it feels so familiar. World Stage is a well-made snowboarding game that will thrill first-time entrants, but it may leave returning veterans out in the cold.
The controls in Shaun White Snowboarding: World Stage have not been altered at all from last year's release, but this is a good thing. Using just a Wii Remote, you can easily glide down the mountains, weave seamlessly around corners, spring breathlessly into the air, and smoothly contort your body into all sorts of wicked shapes before you land perfectly back on the snow. Aside from using the A and B buttons to tweak your trick set and control your speed, you perform every move with motion controls. Tilting the remote to turn and flicking it up to jump mimics the actions of your in-game avatar, making World Stage incredibly easy to pick up and enjoy whether you're a longtime snowboarder or favor the safety of a well-insulated ski lodge. The only blemish in this otherwise excellent control scheme is a tendency for your rider to spin in the air, even when you don't want that to happen. As long as you focus on keeping your controller steady at all times, this won't happen, but if you relax at the wrong moment, you'll crash spectacularly.
If the idea of controlling a snowboarder with your hands seems ridiculous, World Stage makes excellent use of the balance board as well. You still need to use a Wii Remote to tweak your trick set in the air, but everything else is controlled with your feet. Leaning into turns, adjusting your positioning to speed up or slow down, and leaping into the air to perform a bevy of spins and grabs work really well, making World Stage mirror the real sport in just about every way but the punishing cold. Unfortunately, you can use only one balance board at a time, so multiplayer participants will have to decide in a civil manner who gets the board. World Stage does make use of the Wii MotionPlus, but only in a trick editor between events. It's a neat feature, but it would have been more interesting to take advantage of this peripheral while snowboarding.
World Stage is broken up into a variety of different courses located across the globe. You start out as the 100th ranked snowboarder in the world, but you slowly climb the rankings as you score ridiculous points in trick competitions or show off your unparalleled speed in races. Before each event, you select two different characters. The one you control is rated in a number of categories, including speed, balance, and air, and there are enough playable characters to suit everyone's needs. The other character you select follows you as your cameraman and, more importantly, gives you access to a super move after you perform enough tricks. These special moves range from innocuous maneuvers that help you perform better, such as improved balance or a speed burst, to others that let you attack your competitors. There's nothing quite like forcing your opponent to crash right before the finish line, letting you coast by for all the glory. These power-ups are used seldom enough to not disrupt the competition, but a well-timed trick can make all the difference.
Although there are a number of objectives in World Stage, every competition breaks down into either a trick run or a race. The trick portions are the highlight of the game. Whether you're flying down a mountain, pulling off insane tricks every time you come to a ramp, or rocking back and forth in a halfpipe, wowing the crowd with your ridiculous moves, it's always a blast to get some air and show what you're made of. Although you can determine which specific move you want to perform based on how you move the remote (or your feet, if you're using the balance board) and what button you hold down, there isn't any need to be exact. In the heat of competition, you'll spend more time waving your arm frantically than trying to figure out what move you want to perform, so the focus is on giving yourself enough time to complete each trick and making sure you land perfectly. The races aren't quite as interesting. It's fun to wind your way through a course, but being required to stay grounded to maintain your speed removes much of the breathtaking excitement.
Although it's fun to go through World Stage alone, it's even better with a friend or three. You can play through the whole Career mode cooperatively, which works really well. In trick competitions, everyone's point total feeds into the group's, so if one person is struggling, everyone else has to step it up a notch to grab a spot on the podium. You can take part in four-player competitive battles as well, and you'll feel an evil glow when you nudge your buddy right when he's trying to land a trick or force him to wipe out right before the finish line. World Stage, like its predecessor, is a well-made representation of the winter sport that is easy to pick up, and it's satisfying to work your way to the top of the rankings. However, since there aren't any huge differences separating it from last year's release, anyone taking control of Shaun White once again will have a sense of deja vu. But for people new to the series, or anyone itching to take to the slopes again, this is a really fun take on the sport with excellent controls.