Who needs SSX when you have an indie gem with a lot of heart?
Boarding fans love their long-established franchises. Skateboard players have had it well lately – by Tony Hawk recently experienced a revival and OlliOlli World brings a new twist to grabbing a bridge and letting go; that said, most genre lovers hang out for Skate 4. Snowboarders live vicariously through board-adjacent titles like Soak Where Republic of Horsemen in recent years, but since their counterparts really just want a SSX the comeback.
In its place, could I recommend Grinders in place?
Developed by the European company FoamPunch, Grinders is a hilarious love letter to the snowboarding underdog. Players will wear the glasses of half of Shreddageddon, a budding YouTube duo who just want to hit it hard by filming themselves doing sick stunts. Fate smiles on the couple one day when they meet Lisa, a brand ambassador for 540 Indy, a fictional boarding brand with seemingly deep pockets. Seeing an opportunity for mountain-based synergy – don’t you like buzzwords – Lisa decides to pull the strings of Shreddageddon not only to further her business, but also to make influencers famous on the internet. Does it lead to potentially unethical practices? Maybe, but sure as hell is a fun and hilarious snowboard setup that follows.
A controller is essential for Grinders; you’ll steer with the left stick and control the speed with the right. The right trigger will set up jumps, while the left will help you land and grind rails and the like. Once in the air, you’ll use your right stick for pirouettes (starting left, then flicking and holding right for maximum spin), or your left for pirouettes (again, with this same movement for momentum). You can grab your board with the left and right bumpers, and sometimes hitting both bumpers on the ground will trigger either a winch or a snowmobile in certain contextual situations. A Re-Shred button works like a small rewind, putting you before the last jump you attempted, while a full (and quick) reset of a mission is also possible by pressing another button. The controls are relatively easy to master, but of course, these are things that are easy to learn and hard to master fully.
I was never a huge SSX fan – I tried – but I think it would scratch the itch felt by fans waiting for a sequel. shredders the open world offers plenty of opportunities to play the way you want, including those who need speed or stunt lovers who just want to hit huge ramps. FoamPunch strikes a great balance between a snowboard simulator that will both challenge hardcore fans and be forgiving enough for those with two left thumbs. I can often get two out of three stars from every mission, but I usually fall short of the complex cunning required to really conquer something. A menu system will allow players to jump between sections of the mountain, either by reaching free-roaming areas or diving straight into missions. These missions are very varied; you’ll go up against a pro in one and do your best to do a double backflip the next.
FoamPunch also chooses its battles appropriately. The snowboarding pros featured in the title didn’t have their heads scanned as if the studio had the resources – or the budget – of EA Vancouver (or even Melbourne’s Big Ant); instead, the pros are dressed head-to-toe in warm winter gear. With that in mind, FoamPunch recognizes the limitation pretty much from the start and depreciates as well. Likewise, the pros also lend their voices to the matter and with some you can tell they recorded their lines in their closet at home under the guidance of long-suffering sound technology working at through COVID…and probably budget restrictions.
Speaking of voiceovers, the actors behind the voices of main characters Scotty and Lisa really shine. Lisa is head and shoulders above the rest, with unparalleled nuance and humor. The very Aussie Scotty may not have the same acting chops as Lisa, but he’s damn funny and has some seriously great writing to harness. Scotty is equal parts larrakin and goofy jerk, and that’s a great combination. That said, I’ve noticed a few occasions where the character voiceovers don’t match the subtitles provided, as if the dialogue was changed at the last minute. To its credit, the various voiceovers are generally funnier than the on-screen text (or just make more sense in the context of the story).
It’s not just the pros who lend their likeness to Grinders; the same goes for a number of popular boarding brands like DC, Burton Gimbal God, Skullcandy, Volcom, GoPro and many more. Unlocks are very frequent and mostly come naturally through gameplay, although there are a small amount of collectibles to find in the open world that add to your loot. The problem I had with all of these branded goodies is that they can’t top the very LGBTQ-friendly gear I started the game with. Once I went rainbow, I didn’t want to go back.
Sometimes things get a little buggy, with moves that just aren’t registering, or your character suddenly loses coordination – and more importantly, momentum – while in the air. At other times, you’ll appear to be moving up the mountain and starting a mission while the cutscene that plays before the mission itself is still in progress, causing chaos and usually breaking the camera at the end of the cutscene. In our estimation, these types of issues are usually more likely to occur after starting the game on Xbox Series S or X using Quick Resume, so it’s best to quit completely and relaunch the game when this happens . There’s also the possibility on that last point that I’m too stupid to figure out how to pull off certain moves; a better instruction system would go a long way with this one.
I’m not a snowboarding enthusiast at all, but I found Grinders to be a delight, fast and rewarding pick-up-and-play title that I can jump into for a few quick runs after banging my head against Ring of Elden for far too long. It’s full of fun, humor and generally a joy to play.
Grinders is available now on Windows PC via Steam and the Microsoft Store, Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X. Priced at $30 USD, it’s also part of Xbox and PC Game Pass.
Grinders was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox Series X, as provided by the developer. Click here to learn more about the Stevivor grading scale.
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