The Wii's library is known for it's selection of crap and shovelware. It's the cheapest console with the largest install base, so of course it's going to attract a wide range of products. I'm not against these shitty, cheap games being released; however, I am against them flooding out the market and masking the really great games. Take, for instance, We Ski and Snowboard. At first glace, this game looks like it belongs in the bargain bin. Hell, the name alone makes it sound like a cheap rip on the name "Wii." But look closer, and you'll find something that's really fantastic.
Last year, Nintendo released Wii Fit and soccer moms went crazy for it. The exercise game with a balance board that Nintendo promised would be used in many more games, both first and third party. Since that time, not many developers have actually utilized the balance board for anything meaningful. Thankfully, Namco's done it (again.)
We Ski and Snowboard is the sequel to last year's We Ski, and if you can't tell, they've added snowboards to the mix. Of course, nobody in the "hardcore" gamer market (aside from myself) actually played the first one, so it's bound to be a new experience. The best possible way to describe We Ski and Snowboard in gaming terms would be "a Grand Theft Auto skiing game with the balance board." Interested yet? You should be.
On WSaS, you're dropped on one of two mountains and you ski/snowboard around. You can take the lifts to different paths, and then you ski/snowboard down. Of course, that's not all there is to do in it, but being able to just free ski like that is an amazing thing. The main point of the game is actually in its missions. While screwing around on the mountains, you'll run into people who have missions for you, anything from beating them in a race, to gathering a certain number of items on a path, or doing tricks to get enough points to complete the mission.
As you get better, you'll venture higher up the mountain to the harder missions, pushing your skills. The fact that the game's an open world, err, open mountain adventure means that after you're done with the missions, you can still just ski around and have fun.
The game's controls are really responsive and simple to use. The Wii Remote and Nunchuck are used like your ski poles; move them in the same motion to scoot yourself forward as you'd imagine you would, curve them in and tuck them under your arms to crouch down and gather speed. When using the balance board, move to the left or the right to lean and turn in that direction. When you're skiing, the balance board is parallel to your TV; when snowboard, it's perpendicular. It feels so natural that I had briefly considered placing a fan next to my TV so that it felt like I was flying down the mountain. Unfortunately, I don't have a fan.
If you're done on the mountain, you can always race around against up to 3 of your friends. Only one person can use the balance board, but who really has more than one lying around their house anyway? You're even allowed to import your Miis into the game, for what it's worth. Multiplayer is a strictly same console affair, though. So while that means you can't play online with strangers, it also means that you're guaranteed to be in the same room as your friends when they beat you, allowing you to punch them. Just like on the real slopes.
We Ski and Snowboard is a really great way to use that balance board that's been collecting dust since you realized that Wii Fit isn't a magic lose-weight machine. It's a very solid game that has a one-of-a-kind mission structure for a sport game, and being able to just ski with the balance board is surprisingly fun. If you're looking for something low-stress to play on your Wii that's not a steaming pile of crap like 90% of the games currently being released, We Ski and Snowboard is your best bet.
ESRB:E for Everyone
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