Version tested Wii
Sorry about this, but if you've been hoping the Balance Board will bring a touch of realism to Road Trip, offering the genuine thrill of the slopes without the ensuing Swiss casualty department, or, even worse, paying the best part of a tenner for a glass of citron pressť, then I've got bad news. It's a novel and largely successful way to control the game, but standing on a plastic plank makes you feel like a snowboarder only as much as standing in a garage makes you feel like a car.
It's only a bit disappointing, however, because while the game falls slightly flat on its most obvious promise, it delivers in a handful of other ways. This is speedy, knockabout fun, with some pacy level design, and a very generous nature. Wii versions of multiformat games often conjure masochistic disenchantment, but this is easily the best Shaun White console experience of the bunch.
And - make sure you're sitting down - Road Trip is also the best-looking version. While the Wii can't hope to compete in terms of particle effects and textures, this is a game crafted for the platform, and it shows: the slopes are bold and cartoony and, along with the characters, give it a solidity far more enjoyable than the often glitchy, pop-in ridden efforts on the other consoles. The frame-rate's decent too.
Really, it's a Saturday morning cartoon of a game - a frantic spill through five locations, as cheaply thrilling as a quick snowball fight, and as satisfying as a cup of hot chocolate back at the lodge. Each stop is drawn with flair, from the stampeding moose of Canada, to the craggy boulder-strewn slopes of Chile and the neon backdrops of Japan. It's bold strokes, certainly, but the simple nature of the game encourages that, and the whole experience is driven home by a soundtrack of surprising brilliance, which can be summed up in four words: Don't Fear The Reaper. Actually, it can be summed up in three words: No Avril Lavigne.
And while the Bill and Ted cast never approaches the slacker charm of the SSX games, they're still a chunky, lovable presence, whose range of different skills are matched by charismatic animation. Voice work is less successful, however - one of the girls talks in such cloying half-formed cutespeak that at one point I thought she was telling me about some "slick pervs" up ahead, after which slick curves were a minor disappointment (although slick).
Crucially, Road Trip's excellent presentation is enough to carry you past an annoying opening ten minutes while you struggle to get to grips with the Balance Board. Standing on the board sideways, you steer by shifting left and right with your back foot, while your front foot handles tucks, and carves are left to the B button of the remote. As usual, carves increase manoeuvrability but slow you down, while tucks send you zipping into the distance but cause problems if you're heading for a tree. Meanwhile, as everyone who's read the amazingly stern warnings on Wii Fit will already know, physically hopping up and down on a Balance Board is an act of such evil recklessness that it's likely to trigger the raising of the dead, so jumps become a matter of pumping the board with both feet.
It works well enough most of the time, but as tricks are carried off by frantically redistributing your weight in various strange ways (along with pressing combinations of A and B), there will be moments when your character hops into the air and nuts themselves against the side of a mountain when you were really only making preparations for a wicked Melon 360.
After a half hour or so, the Balance Board starts to feel natural, and while it doesn't really convince you that you actually are pelting down a slope with flies in your teeth and a questionable woolly hat jammed on your head, it's an enjoyably energetic way of controlling the game. It's also surprisingly sensitive to your movements, even on the lowest of the three available settings.