Shredders is the “snowboarding event of the year” according to developers Foampunch, but is this quirky indie worth a trip to the slopes?
Over the last couple of years, developers have cultivated vibrant blends of open-world sports fun in the forms of Riders Republic and Forza Horizon 5. Shredders, from Foampunch, is clearly influenced by the likes of Ubisoft’s Steep and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with its AAA rivals.
It may be adorned with an idiosyncratic tone and a roster of zany characters, but Shredders’ quirky aesthetic isn’t enough to stop this experience from buckling under an avalanche of boredom.
Shredders – Key details
- Price: $29.99 / £24.99
- Developer: FoamPunch, I-Illusions. Let it Roll
- Release date: March 17, 2022
- Platforms: Xbox Series S|X, PC
Master Shredder? Not quite
Right from the opening moments of Foampunch’s Shredders, it’s abundantly clear that the developers are reveling in the zany charm of franchise elites such as SSX Tricky and genre pioneer Cool Boarders. Players are met with energetic displays of color and the game’s title card in an early 00s’ style font that would make Limp Bizkit jealous.
The initial signs are promising as Foampunch and company try to get the adrenaline flowing by showing off the slopes in all their snowy glory. The premise is simple: you and your best friend Scotty are intent on making crazy snowboarding videos for fun until brand ambassador Lisa gives you a shot at the big time with some sponsored opportunities.
From here, challenges begin to increase in intensity and more spots across Shredders’ world become available to explore until you make it to the invitational event. Unfortunately, all signs of a pulse quickly begin to fade away after the introduction of Shredders’ offbeat cast of characters. Shredders’ ability to deal out cringe in the form of atrocious dialog and bizarre voice acting is commendable itself purely for its consistency. The game features the likes of real-life professional snowboarders, who join your crusade for greatness, but it never feels like their presence is elevating the game as it should.
It doesn’t help that your own character is a silent observer, merely being told what to do and how to do it. Characters are always covered by a mask, which of course makes sense from the harsh climate, but also comes across as a way for the developers to avoid the task of facial animations.
For such a seemingly large world, Shredders is often a fairly lonely experience that misses the life of rival games. Foampunch specifies that Shredders supports 4K resolution and 60FPS, but these attractive features are buried by inconsistent performance. Coasting down the slopes, even at a mild pace, can see the game struggle to keep up. It’s not ideal when challenges are asking to you complete some of the more demanding inputs.
There isn’t a lot happening in the world itself either, with the landscape appearing to be dominated by endless sheets and mountains of snow. It shouldn’t be a detriment to the game, given the nature of the sport, but Shredders’ textures are noticeably rough around the edges. Can the sound design save it? No. The original score from artist Jennifur is full of infectious ambient soundscapes, but the praise for Shredders’ audible aspects ends there. Sound effects sound over-compressed and cheap, with their activation coming across as delayed when the player transfers between different velocities and heights.
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Shredders wants to stomp its boots firmly into the same space of aforementioned efforts like Riders Republic, but its expansive nature always feels conflicting with its barren gameplay mechanics. Most of the game’s challenges amount to completing a range of daredevil antics, unlocking more spawn points across the map, and rewards for customization in return. It’s understandable that Shredders wants players to unlock more of the map through progression, but when the game preaches exploration and a taste for freedom, it’s strange that the player is prohibited from making it to the depths of the world from the start.
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Finding your footing
The gameplay mechanics of Shredders aren’t exactly complicated, but there is a rhythm to tune into. Priming jumps and successful landing risky rotations are gratifying enough to start with, but the game never feels like its hitting a magnificent stride. Shredders will throw more complicated combos and vertigo-inducing jumps to traverse, but at what cost? There is never that eureka moment hidden within the game’s controls. This genre lives and breathes on those multiple-hour sessions of tricking and experimentation. It’s almost like a trance state, with the flow continuing to grace your time in the world.
With so many moves and variations of grabs, grinds, and flips to achieve, Shredders fails to conjure up the feeling of coolness associated with so many greats in the genre. Sports games provide a singular brand of escapism that is special, as speed and momentum transport us into the bliss of movement. Instead, Shredders is ironically more content with your flailing around and eating a mouthful of snow as you bail in the face of its awkward gameplay. The overhanging sense of dullness can’t quite be shaken away, causing sessions within the game to be cut short purely out of boredom.
Yet, there might be something in this for people who are looking to escape into a landscape of ambient bliss, as Shredders evokes a tranquil atmosphere away from its core challenges. There is a charm to just riding around with no objectives to worry about. With a bit more life restored to the game’s map, perhaps with more AI riders gracing the world, it could feel more involved.
The game is intent on letting us know just how gigantic it is, but there aren’t any appealing incentives for making progress. Aside from seeing more spawn points, customization is surprisingly lacking for a game that sports an impressive list of licensed brands. Of course, customization is a subjective point of contention for players, as there is likely something for even the most mildly curiously of players. However, there isn’t anything else buried beneath the surface for your hard work.
Shredders is admirable for its ambitious concept within the confines of an indie budget, but its gameplay doesn’t warrant any repeated trips to the slopes. Foampunch tries to salvage the game with an attempt to charm players with its wacky humor and splashes of energy, butting heads with the game’s juxtaposition of a dull open-world in the process.
Curiosity may pique your interest in Shredders as it launches on Xbox Game Pass, but you’ll likely have forgotten the game within a few minutes of your descent from the summit.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S