Game: We Ski
Genre: Balance/Extreme Sports
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Even though I’m still sticking with my daily Wii Fit workouts, I’ve been interested in seeing what other games the Wii Balance Board could be used for. Luckily, Namco-Bandai was the first third-party publisher to jump on the balance bandwagon, making sure that We Ski was available as soon as Wii Fit hit the market in the U.S. While the game is a little too shallow to gain a permanent place in my Wii library, it does offer a decent amount of fun… for a short period of time.
At first glance, there are plenty of things going for We Ski: the use of Miis, outfit and equipment customization, implementation of music and sound effects from other Namco classics, and of course, balance board compatibility. As the player, you can opt to use one of the game’s many playable characters, or just go with your Mii. There are not a whole lot of customization options available from the start, but the more you play, the more points you will earn towards unlocking gear and outfits (some of which cannot be used on a Mii). Whichever you choose, it’s always nice to have options as far as your character goes, no matter what game you’re playing.
We Ski can be played with or without a balance board, but either way, the Wii remote and nunchuk will be used. While the remote and nunchuk controls work fine on their own, I spent most of the time using the balance board since that was the biggest draw of the game. Unlike the skiing and snowboarding exercises in Wii Fit, speed is not controlled with the balance board; it is only used for moving from side to side. This turned me off a little bit, partially because you have to keep pumping the controllers like ski poles to gain speed and move forward. As you can imagine, that gets tedious after awhile, especially with the cord connecting the remote and nunchuk constantly hitting you as you ski. Despite that minor annoyance, the balance board works pretty well to steer yourself around the mountain, and is more fun than using just the remote and nunchuk alone.
Since We Ski is supposed to be easily accessible and family-friendly, everything is pretty simple, from the controls to the overall look of the game. I guess this is a triumph for non-gamers or younger children, but more serious gamers will crave a little more depth. The entire mountain is open from the start of the game, so there are no extra trails to unlock, and courses vary by difficulty level. Most of the courses are varied enough that skiing doesn’t get too repetitive initially, but eventually you will want more. Luckily, you can talk to many of the people standing around either on courses or down at the resort to start various side missions, but none of these are terribly exciting.
To master the more complicated tricks of the slopes, there are a number of tutorials available in Ski School to help you learn. These “classes” are a big help, but completing everything in the school can get a little boring. You can also skip the lessons entirely and just hit the slopes, but without a firm grasp on the controls, you won’t score well. You will get a letter grade after each course letting you know how well you did, which in turn will lead to you getting more points and more unlockables.
Graphically, We Ski looks okay, with characters comparable to the ones in MySims. Despite some cute touches, details are lacking on the courses and the whole game is a little underwhelming in the visual department. These aren’t the worst graphics on the Wii by any means, but that’s not exactly high praise. The sound is more pleasant; as mentioned before, Namco borrows from its library of classics, so you’ll sometimes hear the musical stylings of games like Pac-man or Katamari Damacy as you start a course.
The biggest problem with We Ski is that it’s just not exciting or challenging enough to make most gamers want to keep playing. I’m sure it’s difficult to make a game accessible to players of all ages, and while this is certainly a nice casual title for a new gamer, Namco may have alienated many others in the process. There are plenty of extreme sports games that have managed to suck gamers in over the years, but We Ski won’t be one of them. It’s not that it’s a bad game; it’s just that after a few hours of skiing downhill, talking to resort guests, and doing a few chores, you will pretty much have had your fill. If you recently picked up Wii Fit and are looking for something else to do with your new peripheral, We Ski will make a nice rental title. However, it won’t be long before you’ve cast this game aside to get back to your regular workout routine.