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After the success of Wii-Fit other developers are producing games that use the Balance Board. Family Ski (We Ski in the US) is one of the first games to use the board in a proper game setting. It expands on the success of Slalom, Ski Jumping and Snow Boarding in Wii-Fit, taking the Skiing genre out on the slopes.
Sports games recreate a wide variety of real life competitive games. Depending on the sport, these will either have an action or strategy focus. Popular sports games are often released on an annual basis, each year the game receives new player rosters and game improvements.
We Ski and Snowboard is a game that the whole family can really enjoy. 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. If that's not enough realism for you, you can add in the Wii-Fit balance board. Positioned normally, this uses the players tilting to control the skiing direction, turn it 90 degrees and you can simulate a snowboard in the same way.
Like the previous game, We Ski and Snowboard takes the Skiing from Wii-Fit 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. This time around things are a little slicker. Not only is there the option of switching from Skis to the aforementioned Snowboard, but we also have 7000 feet of mountain to ski down, freestyle.
In either the safer, marked out slopes of the resort or the wide open planes of the mountain, players work their way through a variety of speed and style challenges. In addition they can accept missions from the other skiers they meet along the way. The game doesn't force its agenda on the player, so they are free to just enjoy the slopes, go for high scores, or take on the full adventure style missions.
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 feature here as well.
Clean simple graphics and controls combine with the use of the Mii's (previously created on your Wii) make for an involving ski environment. The races, slalom and mogul events have the look of Ski Sunday. The freestyle mode lets you explore the mountain, picking ski runs at will that range from leisurely powder to speed inducing ice slopes. The four player racing makes this a great game for family fun, or more competitive times once the kids are in bed.
Each run only lasts a few minutes, making the game suitable for short half hour sessions. The nature of the controls means that it takes a little while to get accustomed to, therefore to get the most out of the game longer sessions should be considered.
The super simple motion controls make this game easy to control for younger players. Our four and six year olds loved catching ski-lifts and whizzing back down the slopes. Novice players should find there little barrier to entry, although more the experienced may not find the game as challenging as they would hope.
Although Family Ski is focused on family fun rather than being an out and out ski racing game, the new open mountain slopes create a surprisingly realistic and enjoyable skiing or snowboarding experience.
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