Carve Snowboarding, the VR spiritual successor to 1080 Snowboarding, is a fast-paced thrill ride that will have you cutting up scenic mountain slopes with a little bit of practice. It’s not without its hang-ups, though. The control scheme isn’t 100% intuitive, and don’t be surprised if you stumble and wipe out when you’re first hitting the slopes. If I’m being honest, the vertigo-inducing snowboard physics made me fall over while standing in my living room on more than one occasion. Despite that learning curve, however, Carve Snowboarding proved to be a great arcade experience, and for a $19.99 launch price provides plenty of fun with your VR headset. The minimal level selection and lack of multiplayer support, however, holds back this game from reaching its full potential.
Gorgeous Scenery & A Need for Speed
There are two modes you can choose between when selecting a downhill level in Carve Snowboarding: Freestyle and Time Attack. Time Attack awards you medals for completing the course under a set time limit. These time limits are very challenging to meet, especially at later levels, and will require you to replay the course multiple times to find the best route and the best board. Only by mastering both the board and the course will you be able to meet some of these unforgiving time restraints. The control scheme itself has you standing sideways (you know, like on a snowboard…) with your arms by your side. The front and rear controllers allow you to steer the respective sides of the board, which is a bit tough to get the hang of but after some practice, I found I was able to cut around sharp corners without losing much speed, and that was super satisfying. As for jumping, all you need to do is lift the controllers and your board will respond accordingly. There is a sitting option for this game, but I've found you maintain more control when standing up. This game does give you a good workout, too. After a couple of hours, I was feeling it in my arms and shoulders.
Once you get the hang of carving and sliding, you’ll be cruising past rock formations and ice mountains at 60 km before you know it. That’s where the beauty of this game can really be felt when you’re on a straightaway and have a moment to look around at the mountaintops around you. I grew up snowboarding in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and this VR snowboarding game made me remember the kind of breathtaking views that you only get in the mountains in the wintertime. To this end, Carve Snowboarding allows you to enjoy the thrill and magic of snowboarding down a mountain slope from the comfort of home during every season, without the need to invest in expensive equipment or lift tickets (you do need a VR headset though, which is its own kind of investment).
Mastering the Carve Snowboarding Trick List
The other mode, freestyle, is dedicated to what 1080 Snowboarding vets know and love -- extreme air and sick tricks. This mode might have the biggest learning curve, as even after the initial tutorial the game doesn’t hold your hand through any of the tricks you can pull off. Thanks to the magic of virtual reality, however, you don’t need to memorize complicated button inputs to land some of the higher-scoring moves in the game. Instead, you can watch a video or read a description of real snowboarding tricks and mimic those motions in the game with your touch controllers. You can start off with simple nose grabs and rotations, but with a little practice, you’ll be able to perform a whole host of other tricks that are extremely satisfying to land while speeding down a snowy mountain.
Unlike other sports games in this genre, Carve Snowboarding doesn’t reward you based on combos. Instead, it’ll take the “coolest” trick you performed and give you the points for that. There is a point multiplier though, maxing out at 4x when you’re able to land multiple tricks together in a row. This point multiplier disappears quickly though, so for the highest score awards make sure to keep it active with small hops and tricks in between the big jumps and grinds.
Carve Snowboarding Has Limited Customization Options
Carve Snowboarding does an okay job of building this winter world around you, but it is sparsely populated and doesn’t offer much in the way of customization. By exploring each level, you can unlock cassette tapes to add to your in-game playlist, new boards, and new gloves. Though the gloves are purely cosmetic (and I love my aqua blue gloves, I really do), it’s the snowboards where you really want to pay close attention. Each board has unique stats, so you’ll want to switch up what you’re riding based on the level and if you’re going for speed or high trick scores. Though swapping out your gloves and board is a nice touch, it would be more meaningful if you could customize board colors, graphics, and other personalizations to make each rider feel truly unique.
Meanwhile, your mountainside cabin serves as your home base, and it’d be nice to have customization here, too. I know that’s not the point of the game, and it doesn’t take away from how fun the actual gameplay is, but it’s one of those minor improvements that would have made the world of Carve Snowboarding a more meaningful place to spend quality time in, instead of just booting up for an arcade experience every so often.
Do VR Games Cause Motion Sickness?
Any VR game will have some level of motion sickness if you’re prone to it. Thankfully I tend to not have that issue, but even I got a little queasy after loading into Carve Snowboarding. Once your body adjusts to the sharp turns and jumps it becomes more manageable, but the first time I took off downhill I nearly fell over. And then I actually did fall over when I slammed into a rock. Honestly, if you’re nervous about that and you’re about to crash just close your eyes because your body will reflexively want to keep moving forward after the abrupt stop. Definitely don’t play this game next to a cabinet filled with your finest china (honestly good advice for any VR game).
The game does mitigate this in some way. When you wipe out against a wall, snow will fly up and cover your mask, requiring you to wave the controller in front of your face to wipe it away so you can see. There’s also an option for Full Edge Control that you can turn on, allowing you to control the angle of the board on the slope with small movements of your wrists. I’ve found you can actually pick up even more speed with this enabled and is a good option to try out once you’ve become familiar with the game’s controls. The headset itself also adds to the immersion of this game: one of my criticisms of the Oculus Quest is that the field of view doesn’t extend beyond your field of vision for most eyes, so it feels more like you’re looking through a pair of goggles than physically being inside of that virtual world. However, in snowboarding where you actually do wear goggles, this effect makes you feel more at home on the slopes than in some other VR games I’ve tried out. To become even more immersed, I took out my snowboard, strapped on my boots, and clipped in for a few rounds to see how it would feel. Not something I recommend as I quickly got turned around in-game and was unable to reorient myself properly with a real board connected to my feet, but I’m happy I tried it out.
Carve Snowboarding Review | Final Thoughts
Carve Snowboarding is a fast-paced thrill ride that will have you pulling off complex tricks with a little bit of practice. Practice being the key word. The motion controls with the touch controllers on the Oculus Quest 2 aren’t really what I would call intuitive, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be flying down the slopes. Though the level selection is limited, Carve Snowboarding is a VR snowboarding game with tough challenges and medal achievements that’ll have you playing for far longer than you might initially anticipate. Carve Snowboarding is a great arcade experience, especially for the launch price of $19.99, but there are a few areas where it falls short. Still, extreme sports fans will enjoy the adrenaline-pumping thrill ride that this game provides.
*TechRaptor reviewed Carve Snowboarding on Oculus Quest 2 with a copy provided by Chuhai Labs. The game is also available on the original Oculus Quest.
- Immersive Experience
- Fast-Paced and Fun Gameplay
- Fun Collectibles
- You Can Pet the Dog
- Steep Learning Curve
- No In-game Trick List
- Limited Level Selection
- Few Customization Options