Review: Family Ski
Posted 18 Jun 2008 at 23:51 by Mark
|"Much more than just a dirty advertising trick to jump on the Wii Fit bandwagon."|
Perfectly timed to coincide with the balance board, Namco's Family Ski (originally titled "We Ski" comes equipped with a "supports balance board" header on it's box. To the unassuming it looks like a cash-in. A dirty advertising trick to jump on the Wii Fit hype-train. Another "casual" title if you will. But plow a little deeper and you'll soon find out this isn't the case. At all.
Unfortunately, Family Ski looks like a cheap cash in. Generic anime characters romp through a snow filled wonderland which looks solid, if unremarkable. Sound too is minimal with forgettable twee music and Namco remixes (think Pacman) littering the mountain. Again, it's hardly remarkable. Fortunately, what is remarkable is the way in which Family Ski slowly pulls you in. The whole mountain may only take minutes to navigate top to bottom, but it's the missions, side quests, hidden areas and controls which will ensure multiple returns.
Real skiing is never this fun. Just cold.
The use of your Mii's as playable characters fits the game perfectly and the title encourages personalisation (though hats and goggles cannot be used on Miis). Many costumes can be unlocked by completing missions that litter the mountain and as there are some excellent unlockables - coupled with the ability to take photos of (up to) four Miis all dressed up on the slopes and send them to any wii owner, it's a fun extra.
Namco must have thought about intuitive control, and it shows. This is no waggle fest and the Wiimote and Nunchuck are actually utilised in a manner as to mimic ski poles. Holding them face-up and drawing them parallel behind you mimics the digging of both ski poles into snow. This obviously speeds you up and although tiresome when on level ground or going uphill, when your going downhill it doesn't really occur. Furthermore, twisting both controllers inwards (so the Wiimote buttons and Nunchuck's analogue controller face your hips) your character will tuck their ski poles under their armpits and speed up. Simple and effective. Slowing down occurs when holding the C button and pointing the Wiimote and Nunchuk together. Moguls (bumps to you and me) are also combated by holding a combination of Z and B and lastly, tricks can be performed with various button combinations. There are no issues with the core controls and if anything they provide a solid foundation for any future Wii skiing titles.
A special mention must also go to the Balance Board - seeing as Namco got in on the act. When using the board a blue meter appears at the bottom of the screen and this shows where your weight shifts. It takes a lot to master (as in Wii Fit), yet does provide an extra challenge. It's a nice add-on and kudos to Namco for utilising it and actually getting it to work so well!
Now you can be Eddie the Eagle!
Namco also went the extra mile with the multiplayer. It may sound unexciting but the premise of four players skiing down a mountain together, completely independent of each other is excellently pulled off. Any player can then talk to a skier in need and all players will then be part of the mission. It could have been cumbersome but it works flawlessly (and is exactly the same as the single player mode) and more so, it really harks back to the "family" in the title. Speaking of missions, there are many scenarios from lost skiers, race-offs and having photos taken. And with plenty of racing and tricking modes outside of the main mountain there is plenty on offer. A grading system rounds everything off with the highest grade of S+ being the bread and butter of Family Ski's addiction.
With plenty of solid skiing on offer, multiplayer hijinks being great fun, and a neat WiiConnect24 feature, Family Ski is a great little package - being sold at a budget price. It is only the relatively small mountain, lack of online races and minimal polish which holds this back from being an avalanche of a title.
Read on for our final review score and impressions:
N-Europe Final Verdict
Family Ski is a fun title with a great “jump-in” feel to it. Varied missions and solid, intuitive controls ensure anyone can play. If you like skiing at a cheaper price point, there's no reason not to plough into this one.
Slick and easy to get into
Good Balance Board and WiiConnect24 usage
Mountain can seem too small
Sound instantly forgettable