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Many have dismissed Family Ski as a short lived novelty that falls short of Namco's own 90's arcade hit Alpine Racer. However, my family lapped up the fleshing out of Wii-Fit's ski modes. For us it does just what it says on the tin, and in some style.
As its name suggests, Family Ski, is a game that the whole family can really enjoy (and it seems a better name than the We Ski title published in the states). The success of the game for my tribe was in the controls. The Wii-mote and Nun-chuck are held ski pole style. Thrust them down together to spike yourself forwards, twist them into the body to crouch for extra speed, and tilt them left and right to shift your balance and change direction.
After watching me play just a couple of times, my three year old grabbed the controls and made it down a slope without a hitch. As he stood in front of our seemingly outsized TV, arms stretched out wide willing his little Mii down the slope the game was instantly worth its purchase price.
As he stood in front of our seemingly outsized TV, arms stretched out wide willing his little Mii down the slope the game was instantly worth its purchase price.
Soon after I let him and my five year old daughter loose on the freestyle game, where they can both ski around an alpine mountain as they wished. There was a lot less of my usual jumping in to help. They could negotiate the speed runs, the moguls and even have a stab at the slalom without too much parental interference.
Once I managed to get another go, I was also happy to see that the controls had some added depth. You could used different buttons to snow plough, turn sharply and perform a variety of tricks in the air. Add in the balance board from Wii-Fit and you have an experience that gets pretty close to the real thing. The board removes any lingering sensitivity problems with the Wii-mote direction control (which itself was pretty solid) and lets you really concentrate on that perfect line.
Having familiarised ourselves with the different ski runs, we could move onto some proper competition. Here you can choose up to four players (although not on the balance board) and either downhill, slalom or mogul races. As you work your way up the different race levels things get tough enough to stretch even the most proficient of Wii-Fit player.
Family Ski takes that initial seed of an idea, and brings it to a fitting culmination. It manages to create a believable alpine environment, fully populated with other skiers and on lookers. The little touches here really make all the difference. The first time Eddie took his little Mii onto a ski lift and we watched as he chugged up the hill - bright mountain sun behind him and kiers below - was quite simply magical. And this is matched in the race mode replays that manage to re-create that timeless BBC Grandstand's Ski Sunday feel as you watch your Mii charging down the slope.
These competitive events are where all that freestyle ski practice can be put to good use. You will soon be tucking your poles in behind you for extra speed or perfecting fast turns and trick jumps. There is plenty here for the more competitive player, although unless you have other people to play against the challenge is a little on the easy side.
Race mode replays manage to re-create that timeless BBC Grandstand's Ski Sunday feel as you watch your Mii charging down the slope.
The only down side of the game for me is that it only uses the balance board for turning. In Wii-Fit you can also lean forward and back to adjust your speed - a touch that added another layer of realism. It's surprising how many new games you play that simply miss the tricks that Nintendo go right on their launch titles. Also, having recently unlocked the snow board in Wii-Fit I would have loved to see that 'rad' feature here as well.
Many will criticise Family Ski for not being something it was never intended to be. This will never be an arcade racing game on snow, and accordingly doesn't attempt to come close to the infamously large Alpine Racer cabinets that used to clutter up our local bowling alley.
Take it for what it is mane to be, and this is a game where all the family can experience a light Mii infested slice of alpine skiing heaven.
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