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Last night I returned home from PAX AUS 2014. Long story short, it wasn't perfect, but it was quite possibly the best weekend I've had this year. It was a lot of fun. If you'd like to continue reading, the long story is just below. Buckle up. This is gonna be...

We Ski Review

Jesse_Costantino By:
GENRE Sports 
PUBLISHER Namco Bandai Games 
DEVELOPER Namco Bandai Games 
E Contains Alcohol Reference

What do these ratings mean?

Pizza? French fries? More like Brussels Sprouts.

Step with me for a moment into the Wayback Machine.

click to enlargeYou’re traveling with me yet again to the glory days of the arcade era. This time, we’re going to revisit those happy days when good report cards meant free tokens at most parent-friendly arcades. Yes, there was a time when your grades in school actually mattered, when they really meant something important. There used to be a benefit to staying awake through your geometry class and writing essays about how your grandparents made you into upright citizens. It was all for that free pile of shiny, round, cartoon-emblazoned booty. “Render unto Caeser the things which are Caeser’s, and unto Pacman the things that are Pacman’s.”

Those days are gone—along with my self-respect and the thousands of brain cells I lost shortly thereafter throughout my college years. Times have changed and so has gaming. Now instead of needing good grades to get extra gaming time in, games have turned around and just give us the grades themselves. These days, we get scored and graded on nearly all aspects of our game playing by just about every game out there.

We Ski takes this to an extreme. Expect to be graded on everything you do. Every run down a slope, every trick, every turn, every spill, and everything else you can do on two skis has a direct effect on your grades. And just like school, the grading isn’t always fair or consistent, and it often doesn’t make a lot of sense.

We Ski is organized much like the later SSX titles. You’re presented with a full mountain with a range of slopes, lifts, conditions, and competitions. Each path is identified by a particular animal (say, the "Elephant" stage), making the slopes easy to recognize using the map. It might have been fun to instead identify the slopes by the appropriate animal sound, but I’m not sure I could handle hearing a screaming rabbit each time I want to go to the bunny slope.

click to enlargeEach run emphasizes different aspects of skiing and then grades you on those aspects with a grade of D, C, B, A, S, or S+. For example, some runs will grade you on a combination of your speed, turning ability, and balance; others will judge you on a combination of your tricks and end time to finish. Each run has its own combination of grading categories that loosely correspond to the conditions and features of that run. If you see a jump on a particular run, chances are you’ll be graded on your trick ability.

The problem with this is that you don’t know what you’ll be graded on until after you’ve done the run at least once, and even then you have to quickly hit the A button in a very short window of time at the end of the run in order to see your individual grades. You receive an overall grade, but since that’s an average taken from your four or five individual scores, the overall grade doesn’t tell you much about why you got the grade you did. If you miss pressing the A button during that short window of time, you have no way of finding out how you need to improve, so you just have to do the run over again and hope you don't miss what is essentially an A-button quick time event.

Worse, you also never know the criteria by which you’re being judged. For example, let’s say you get a “B” rating for your turning ability on a particular run. You know you need to do better, but you don’t know how much better you need to get to earn an "A". The same applies for every other grading category. There are no timers, counters, or score indicators, so you have no way of knowing how you’re doing while you’re skiing and how your current run compares to your prior run. It’s quite frustrating.

Luckily, most of the game is incredibly easy and you’ll quickly get an "S+" grade on most of the slopes with just a little patience. You may not know what you did to get those grades, but if you put in just a little bit of time, you’ll get them eventually… with one major exception.

click to enlargeThe courses that use lots of moguls require you to use a “wedeln” technique. This is the technique by which skiers get through moguls very quickly. Executing the technique correctly isn’t just difficult; it’s downright confusing. Your ability to wedeln properly will affect your turning grade, but since there’s no turn counter, it’s nearly impossible to know how well you are wedelning… err... wedeling?… wedelnening?… whatever.

Despite the confusing grading rubric, the controls generally work very well. Using the Wii remote and nunchuck in combination to turn, skate, walk, stop, and perform tricks all feels surprisingly good. The control scheme is a much more filled-out version of the control scheme found in Winter Sports, where the remote and nunchuck each represents a different ski. Simply twist the controller to emphasize one edge of your skis or the other. Similarly, flicking the controllers in different directions after launching from a designated jump will send you into the appropriate trick move.

We Ski is also compatible with the balance board, but since you still need to use the controllers for executing most of the other techniques, using the board is much more of a hassle than it’s worth. Not just that, but you can’t play multiplayer if you use the board. Multiplayer itself is exactly what you’d expect and basically just applies the same grading standards, but applies them to up to four players, and the person with the best score or time wins.

click to enlargeTaken as a whole, We Ski is the best skiing game available on the system. But considering your only other choices are things like Winter Sports and the skiing game included in Wii Fit, that isn’t saying much. There aren’t nearly enough different courses to be found in We Ski, and the only unlockable content is your attire and equipment. All of the ski runs are available from the outset, and there isn’t all that much on offer. What’s there feels nice, but nothing presents much challenge or variety. Most of the game is ridiculously easy, with the one exception being the few mogul runs.

But if you’re someone who’s been out of school for a while and wants to remember what it’s like to feel the sting and confusion of a mysterious grading system, or if you’re someone who desperately needs a summertime grading fix while school’s out, then by all means, check this out.
C Revolution report card
  • Slick control scheme
  • Easy-to-navigate map
  • Best skiing available on the Wii
  • . . .in a field of total disasters.
  • Invisible grading rubric
  • Low on content and challenge
  • Damn you, wedeln!
    Reviews by other members
    No member reviews for the game.

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More information about We Ski
Also known as: Family Ski