Monday, January 28

Review: When Ski Lifts Go Wrong [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Just in the past few weeks I was reviewing another bridge-building game and, though it played pretty well, was internally bemoaning the fact that even with Bridge Constructor Portals fun variations this physics-based sub-genre had gotten a bit comfortable. Sure, there have been some variations on theming and specific elements but as a whole nothing has felt very fresh. As if they were thinking the same thing the people behind When Ski Lifts Go Wrong have come up with a fresh take, hitting the slopes to provide new ideas and some mildly entertaining action in places as well for extra flavor.

As the name implies rather than building bridges here you’ll be charged with taking care of construction at a ski resort. Thankfully not limited to straight-up lifts, over the course of the game you’ll tackle making ramps and jumps, supporting much heavier gondolas, and even some summer variants to keep you on your toes. This means you won’t just be trying to get passive skiers up to the top of the hill, for the projects that lend themselves to extreme sports you’ll also then take control of the snowboarder / motorcyclist / etc trying to execute a big jump or trick as well. Though the controls are pretty simple for these elements it’s still something a little different and something I appreciated.

Early on you’ll go through some tutorials that explain how to make these structures, what elements are necessary, and how to make effective use of triangles to shore up your structure properly. These can sometimes be a bit tough or confusing at first themselves, depending on how well you pick up the core concepts, but with some patience, experimentation, and observation you’ll likely get the idea soon enough. Past that point you’ll be charged with keeping your construction costs within your budget, making sure the structure survives people using it, and if you want some extra challenge you can try to pick up a medal on each course as well. Most of the time getting these isn’t too much extra trouble, more often than not they were just a bit outside the optimum line and you’d just need to be sure to keep your budget over control.

The game performs well using both the controller and the touchscreen, which works better will probably vary from person to person. Most of the shortcuts like Undo/Redo and turning auto triangles on and off are nice quality of life features but there can be a lot of buttons and usually when I’d start back into the game after a break I’d need to familiarize myself once more. As per the usual the difference between collapse and success can often be a minor difference, and at least the game does a fair job of showing which pieces of your structure are bearing the most strain, helping you identify where to make a change. The action controls are often little more than the ability to crouch, choose direction, accelerate, and rotate but I did look forward to trying to get my little character over their stunt safely, though I’ll admit I tended to chuckle at times watching them faceplant or ragdoll down the side of the mountain.

When Ski Lifts Go Wrong represents the innovation the physics-cased construction genre has been in need of. There’s more out there than mere bridges that can be fun to play with and it’s great that the scope of what they shot for was pretty wide, encompassing a number of different activities that kept it all from beginning to look the same too quickly. Granted, if you’re not into these physics construction games in general this likely won’t change your mind, but if you’ve gotten any enjoyment from the satisfaction of building structures that can withstand a substantial load effectively this should have plenty of variety to keep you entertained.

Score: 8.5

  • A change in focus and venues makes this a breath of fresh air
  • Periodic challenges that then charge you with controlling a rider add to the diversity and fun
  • Even some summer slope activities are included in the mix to help you from getting into a rut too quickly

  • In the end if the physics-based construction sub-genre doesn’t interest you this probably won’t be enough to change your mind
  • The controls work fine but have enough complexity that they can take time to get accustomed to
  • Controlling the rider is something I enjoyed, but the simplistic nature of the controls in these mini sequences may aggravate some players as well