Namco Bandai snuck up on us last week with a lighthearted new skiing game for the Wii entitled, appropriately enough, We Ski. Note that it's not spelled Wii Ski, in the fashion of recent clever marketing-inspired Wii game titles. You see that Nintendo? At least Namco Bandai knows how to spell. It may also know how to make an entertaining little skiing game, if our brief hands-on time was any indication.
We could call that hands- and feet-on time, actually, because We Ski works with both the traditional Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo, as well as with the upcoming Wii balance board. We Ski's release is currently listed in the second quarter, which should put it pretty close to the launch of Wii Fit (wherein the balance board is packaged). Hopefully, the two games will hit shelves at the same time because we found the balance board-based controls to be a little more bodily engaging (though also a little harder to master) than the basic controls. Either way, though, you might get a decent workout with this one.
The Wii Remote and Nunchuk act as your left and right poles, so you make downward motions with them to push off from a stop and pick up speed. If you're playing with only those controls, you'll also turn them like you would your skis to steer left and right. Lastly, you can wave them in crazy motions while in the air to pull off various tricks. Once you throw the balance board into the mix, though, you'll use it to do all your steering by shifting your weight back and forth. This is initially less precise--we tended to overcompensate with too much weight, causing our skier to make a nearly 90-degree turn--but we had more fun doing it, and you'll certainly get more physical activity out if it as well.
The game uses a quasi-open world model based on the saccharine Happy Ski Resort, where each of the 14 runs is named after an animal of some sort. (How anyone thought camels and skiing should go together is anyone's guess.) You can start at the top of the mountain and ski from run to run, free-roaming style. Or you can pull up a quick map and immediately warp to the start of any run. The game will have about 70 events, including more esoteric objectives involving photography and package delivery.
The 20 races will make up the most skill-based portion of the gameplay, though, you'll find slalom and mogul courses of varying difficulty scattered throughout the game's various runs. Naturally, these will demand the most precise skiing and are categorized by difficulty. When you finish events, you'll earn points you can trade in for various kinds of new gear: skis, gloves, hats, and masks--the works. This is on top of the basic character creator, which lets you assemble a Mii-like dude or dudette before hitting the slopes. Luckily, you can also just import your real Mii, if you have one. (And who has a Wii with no Miis?)
Those looking for a hefty dose of Namco Bandai-branded charm will be disappointed: Don't expect to see any unlockable Klonoa or Soul Calibur characters on the select screen. The game exudes its own goofy brand of charm, though, and it also has split-screen multiplayer for up to four people, so it ought to appeal heartily to the prevalent Wii-owning family demographic.