Thursday, May 22, 2008

What I'm Playing: We Ski

The Wii game console is so popular, everyone is trying to cash in on the fad. They are oodles of games out there, all with chibi-headed cartoon characters and bright colors. Unfortunately, about 90% of those games stink to high heaven. Overly simplistic, boring, repetitive, awful controls... You get the point.

The trouble is trying to find the 10% that are good without having to experience (or buy!) the bad. It's hard, since they all tend to look alike. This is particularly true of the slew of "casual" sports games. Video game reviews can help. But even they can be misleading (since you and the reviewers may have different tastes).

So when you do find a good one, you feel compelled to tell the world. And last night I found one.

I am addicted to skiing games. I don't know why; I've only ever gone skiing twice in my life and I found it difficult, nerve wracking, and exhausting. I am sure I'd get better at it if I did it more. But there is something about the concept of flying down a hill on a couple of sticks (or a board) that really appeals to me.

So I have played a number of skiing games. I prefer the realistic ones (such as 1080°) to the over-the-top tricksters (such as SSX), but I'll take my virtual skiing where I can get it.

Which is why I bought We Ski. It looks like the other cheap ripoff Wii sports titles but this one is different. It really is a good game. Now, we are not talking complex or overly challenging, just lots of fun and plenty to do.

The controls -- using the Wiimote and nunchuk -- are accurate and very intuitive*: thrust down to push off, tilt to turn, rotate outwards to crouch... There are more complex moves (especially aerial tricks) that require additional buttons or twists. But the point is you can get going very quickly.

And once you are going there is plenty to explore. Multiple trails and chair lifts, plenty of variety. You can even ski down from the top of the mountain to the bottom in a single go. In addition to the skiing (and avoiding the other skiers) there are plenty of additional challenges (and unlockables) available if you talk to the people you find on the mountain.

No, there are no olympic level challenges (although one hidden course is quite a beast) -- this is a more relaxed game that lets you go at your own pace. But for a budget title (currently $30), it is packed with more fun than many if not most of the full-priced games out there for the Wii.

So if you are looking for some cheap thrills -- literally -- give it a try. I especially recommend it if you have friends to play it with.

* Footnote: We Ski supports the Wii Fit board, which may be its key marketing point. But I haven't tried that. In fact, when I first heard about the game, that feature put me off it since it sounded too much like a gimmick. But when I heard you could play multiplayer using the Wiimote and nunchuk I was sold.

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