Every now and then a game comes along that just makes you say “now that is just a little bit of alright”. Namco’s latest Wii offering is certainly a prime example of this. We Ski is the kind of game that hardcores will balk at and casual gamers will likely find little incentive to give it a chance, which is truly a shame because We Ski is one of the most interesting uses of the system’s motion controls to date. Not to mention being a load of fun once you get accustomed to the somewhat intricate control scheme. From the outset you have full access to the enormous Happy Ski Resort chock full of surprisingly entertaining events and challenges.
We Ski is an interesting affair in that it comes out roughly the same time as Nintendo’s Wii Fit peripheral. This is both a blessing and a curse as anyone who owns Wii Fit already knows it comes packed with a skiing mini-game out-of-the-box, so Namco’s effort really has to stand out to warrant another purchase. Thankfully it works and those worried about not getting your money’s worth can rest easy knowing that Wii Ski is well worth the price tag for its copious amount of content. Playing with the balance board is fun, surprisingly fun as a matter of fact and really makes a great first game to support the peripheral.
Controlling your character is just how you would imagine. Each remote acts as an independent ski pole. Tilting them forward causes your character to move and twisting them inwards towards each other will increase speed much like tucking the poles under each arm. The buttons are used to snow plow and navigate moguls along the course and you can even use the remotes motion control to skate along flat surfaces just how you would imagine. Unlike other games that attempt to mimic real-life movement Wii Ski does an admirable job of simulating each motion properly. The only downside is the limited use of the balance board, which sadly only dictates directional movement such as left and right. Everything else here works surprisingly well while still being highly enjoyable.
So far in the system’s lifecycle very few developers have had the chance to implement the use of the console’s Mii system. Wii Ski is one of the first non-Nintendo titles to implement this feature and it works. Of course if you never bothered creating your own deformed virtual avatar you can choose from over 200 pre-defined characters. Unfortunately you cannot customize your Mii’s headgear once you have selected them making some of the unlockable outfits nearly useless.
Once you decide on your character and hit the slopes it is best to make a quick pit stop at the ski school. Here the game teaches you all the basic controls and even offers an advanced course to learn some of the tricks that can be performed. While it does take a hefty amount of time to play through this tutorial it really is beneficial considering the complexity of the scheme. If you decide to fly blindly into the powder you will quickly realize there is more to Wii Ski than simply flapping your arms around like an idiot.
I have to admit that the first time I saw the boxart for Wii Ski I had my doubts. It comes across as very plain and I whole-heartedly expected a quick cash-in on the Wii Fit compatibility. Thankfully once you start digging through Happy Ski Resort you come to the realization that there are literally hundreds of things to keep you occupied. There are fourteen total courses and all of the offer different obstacles and manage to feel distinct. You can also partake in challenges from other skiers you run into on the mountain; there are over 150 of these and they range from simple items like races to trivia questions to even delivery runs. All of them offer very little challenge and the difficulty ramp is minimal, but it’s obvious from the get-go that this game was designed more to be fun than challenging.
This isn’t to say that you will find yourself bored on the mountain. Outside of the core challenges and events Wii Ski focuses heavily on exploration. There are several species of wildlife to discover, the ability to improve your times on courses and even a photographer that will grab a quick snapshot in certain areas that can be posted on the Wii bulletin board. Overall the integration into of everything into the Wii system itself is enough to get geeky gamers like myself excited.
There is a multi-player mode to speak of and it supports up to four players via split screen. WiFi support would have been great, but as it stands there is fun to be had. You can play either cooperatively or competitively depending on your mood. Some challenges are easier to complete with the aid of a friend, while others are a mess because of the limited view of split screen. Competitive modes dry out fairly quickly due to a lack of variation and length. Multi-player is fun for a while, but for the most part Wii Ski is best enjoyed as a solo affair.
Visually the game is reminiscent of other Wii casual affairs. Super deformed characters applied to a vibrant background set the mood nicely. The snow effects are actually impressive featuring solid deformation and decent lighting. The frame rate stutters a bit in multi-player, but the sense of speed coming down the mountain is quite impressive. The rest of the game feels like other titles of the same nature with large print directions and easy to read text that give the game a generic, but simplistic appeal.
Wii Ski is one of those games that will likely impress anyone who decides to give it a shot. At $30 it’s hard not to recommend it to fans of Nintendo’s other casual sports games such as Wii Sports and the more recent Wii Fit. It feels more content heavy than the other two, but not quite as solid making it a nice middle ground title that sits nicely in any Wii owner’s collection. If you enjoy the typical waggle-sports found on the console Wii Ski will likely please you, if you are still not a believer in motion control there is little here to advance the medium, just a lot of mindless fun to be had.