So, you ran out and bought Wii Fit at release, and while plunking down your $100, the woman behind the counter tells your that you can get We Ski for only $20 more. So you think to yourself, “Well, if I'm already throwing down a Benjamin on this title, I might as well throw down an extra $20 for something that might actually let me have fun with my shiny new balance board.”
This is the fallacy I made, and learned to regret after playing We Ski for just a few short minutes. We Ski is the most pure sandbox game I have come across to date, and by sandbox, I mean it gives you a lot of stuff to play with, but doesn't really direct you in what you should do. So, from the very get-go, you have access to ski on any slope in the game, riding various ski-lifts that drop you off within a few strides of where you want to be. There are lots of slopes, and they vary in difficulty from a leisurely stroll down the hill to a slightly less leisurely stroll a hill.
At first I was worried that there was really no point to buy this game because I figured there was already a skiing game in Wii Fit, how much more to skiing could there be? Well, there is actually quite a bit. Depending on how you hold your wiimote and nunchuck, you can take different stances during your descent for either high speeds, extra stability over moguls, or for tight turns. The balance board is surprisingly responsive and accurate when it comes to making turns. Though even without it, you just tilt the controllers in the direction you want to go. This was even easier and more accurate, but the novelty of using the balance board is the most endearing factor of this charming little budget title, so I had quickly forsaken control for getting more use out my expensive new piece of hardware.
To help you learn all the nuances of the controls, there is a tutorial mode with an exuberant, wide-eyed ski instructor. Personally, I think any tutorial that happens outside of the main game should just be called, “Throw Away 1 Hour of Your Life,” because that's what I feel like I did as I learned every control, from how to turn around to how to spread eagle (even though I already learned that one in college). It would have been a lot less of a drag if the game just put characters at the top of different slopes who could teach you these things while you played. That way you wouldn't feel like you had to take it in all at once, and you don't feel like learning the game was a prerequisite to actually playing the game.
Despite my gripes about the tutorial, it pays off in the end to know all this stuff as each track has a different combination of twists, jumps and obstacles that need to be handled with the right technique. I only wish those obstacles didn't include lallygagging skiers who seem to think that the middle of the slope is the perfect place to start talking about someone who has the louder retro 80's jumpsuit. I bumped into these people more than occasionally, and even some skiers that were actually traveling down the slope. The RPGer in me loves this touch, since it makes you feel a little less lonely on this cold, white hill. But that side of me is soon disappointed that I can only actually speak with one out of every 20 of these people. Also, the controls are not intended to make it easy to travel uphill, so if you want to talk to someone hanging out at the slope-side lodge, you better make sure you crash right into it. There is, however, a small piece of me that actually likes playing sports games, and it wishes these people would get the hell off my mountain so I can perfect my run and get the fastest time possible.
The game grades your overall performance after each time you run a slope. Getting high grades will unlock new outfits and skis, all of which is nice if you like to play dress-up, but since the game lets me use my own Mii in this game, like any good Wii game should, I feel my appetite for customization sated, and would rather concentrate on the skiing. Sadly, skiing without any goal is like playing any other sandbox game without a goal; it gets boring fast. So, ineVitably you start exploring the mountain, and again, the RPGer in my brain starts shouting, “Yay, adventure!” And you will find a number of people who will give you missions. Some will ask you to race, or find people, or deliver a package. But without any continuous story or purpose to link them, they only become temporary reprieves from the fact that you've pretty much skiied the entire mountain after your first few sittings with it.
If you can get some friends to join you in multiplayer, the game takes on a new dynamic, as you can all go exploring in your own ways, and if any of you happen to trigger a mission, you all are dragged into it normally. Up to four people can play at once, but sadly the frame rate can't always keep up with that many split screens.
For $20, I can't complain, as it was a fun diversion and I appreciated the fact that I didn't HAVE to play the game for 20 hours just to unlock a slightly steeper slope. The game understands that to some people, the mere act of finding something cool (and then getting to take a picture of it) is reward enough for some people. Even at the full $30 price, if you think you're the type to fully get immersed in the random chit-chat with characters, and have an obsessive-compulsive drive to find and complete everything in a game, you'll definitely get your money's worth. If you're just looking for fast and exciting downhill experience, you'll feel as crushed as a skier under an avalanche. Snowboard Kids 3 this is not.