When Nintendo released its balance board peripheral last year everyone thought it would see loads of support from third-party developers. Unfortunately very few have taken advantage of the unique controller thus making it a generally wasted opportunity for Nintendo. Namco Bandai was one of the first to support the peripheral with last year’s We Ski, a simple and addictive title that made great use of both the motion controls and the balance board to create one of the most entertaining experiences on the console. Less than a year later the team returns with We Ski & Snowboard, which is essentially a beefed-up iteration of the abovementioned title with just enough new to make it worth a second look.
There is no mistaking that this cleverly titled follow-up is not quite a sequel, but it is also not quite a rehash. First and foremost the game nixes the entire slope from the first game in favor of two brand new locales to shred on. Also as the name implies this chapter introduces snowboarding to the mix to give players an option between the two styles. Everything else feels strikingly familiar, but this is not a criticism considering there is plenty here to make the overall package feel fresh.
As I mentioned there are two new areas to play in; Mt. Angrio and Jamboree Ski Resort. The latter is very similar to the previous game’s Happy Ski Resort where you can leisurely make your way around the mountain, socializing with characters and partaking in challenges alongside the powder. You can also discover hidden areas or just ski at your own pace here, giving the game a sense of open-world freedom. All of the challenges have been bulked into one area in this pseudo-sequel, making things much easier to maneuver within the game.
The second area is a polar opposite of the first and offers players a fresh, untouched area of snow to hone their skills. This less-populated area is full of higher-level challenges and very few other shredders to get in your way. Think of it as the more peaceful advanced area and you get the idea. This second mountain is also home to much faster slopes than its partner in crime. Barreling downhill is quite exhilarating and traversing these hills at night is even more intense. Being able to choose between these two entirely different areas makes this second outing much more diverse than the original.
Another new addition to the game is a trick system that varies depending on whether you choose to outfit yourself with a snowboard or stick with the skis. Each trick is performed with a series of button presses and of course waggle motions, and for the most part it works well enough to get you by. The problem is that none of it is overly appealing and adds little to the experience overall. The tricks can become tedious and there is little bonus for mastering the system, even though the game does a nice job of tailoring certain portions of the levels for tricking, it simply isn’t that much fun.
The control scheme from the previous outing remains intact with minor adjustments. There is not quite as much in the form of motion control, but you still cannot adjust weight and pitch using the balance board. The Wii remote and nunchuk serve as trajectory sticks and if you can imagine the pantomiming of skiing down a slope the motions are strikingly similar. Once you gain a handle on the controls things become more about streamlining your motions than wildly flailing your arms around, which is indeed a good thing.
Everything else here feels a lot like the last game complete with some of its problems. Goals still feel useless most of the time as they only reward you with clothing, and accessories and even secret objectives earn you little more than recognition in the record books. For the most part this follow-up feels much like the first game in that it provides a unique casual experience that is fun for quick sessions and recreation more than objective-based gaming.
We Ski & Snowboard is the textbook definition of a casual game. Rarely do you find yourself pushing forward to unlock new areas or challenges, and outside of posting some pictures on the Wii Message Board the game lacks interactivity. If you already own We Ski there is enough here to warrant a second trip to the mountain as long as you know what you are in for. The game focuses on providing a leisure-driven experience, and at that it succeeds. Those wanting a more streamlined powder simulation may want to search for alternatives.