If you decide to pick up Wii Fit next month, you may find yourself wondering what other options exist for the included balance board. In that case, you can count Namco Bandai among the number of third-party publishers looking to answer the question for you. They'll soon be releasing We Ski, a light and whimsical look at the sport that uses the balance board for your skis and the remote-Nunchuk combo for your poles. After playing the game at yesterday's Namco Bandai press event, we've got some updated impressions to go alongside a handful of new details.
After stepping onto the balance board, we were handed a Wii Remote (tethered to a Nunchuk) by the same Namco rep who would guide us down the slopes of Happy Ski Resort. Our first step was to select a character. We had the option to create our own skier, either going with one of the premade characters or importing one of the Miis from the system. We decided to try our hand at the character creation process. For such a lighthearted game, We Ski has a surprisingly deep customization system, especially when it comes to clothing. If you've got the time and dedication, you can unlock a total of 180 pieces of gear to go along with 220 body types. The stock options are appropriately colorful, with plenty of bright ski suits to make you feel at home on a Nintendo system. The ability to use one of your own Miis is a great touch, though it's a bit tough to tell what's a Mii and what's not when your looking at the back of your character's head for the majority of the time.
With our character chosen, we jumped on the slopes. You'll immediately notice that the entire mountain is unlocked. Runs don't need to be opened up one at a time. In fact, there's only one track that can be unlocked. Appropriately enough, it's a secret one that we weren't able to snag any details on. You can choose to head to the top of the slopes, or you can start at ski school. Beginners can learn basic techniques like the pizza and french fry stances, the crabwalk, and other ways of easing yourself onto the virtual snow.
The advanced controls are still quite simple. There are three staple moves you'll be using the most. Pushing the remote and Nunchuk down makes you stick your poles into the snow for added speed; tucking them in will make your character crouch; and leaning left and right on the balance board will make your character steer. You can add flair while airborne by using the analog stick to rotate and by shaking the controllers to do grabs. Calibrating the balance board is a quick, painless process where you stand motionless for a couple of seconds while it detects your center of balance. Steering takes some getting used to, but it becomes easier within a few short races. However, we will say that maintaining a perfect center of balance puts a surprising amount of stress on your legs, so make sure those muscles are ready to go before you hop on the balance board. Altogether, though, the controls feel reliable and responsive.
The game is divided into 70 freestyle events, 20 slalom courses, 20 races, and five mogul sections. One interesting note is that you won't be progressing your character's skill level as you progress through these events. From beginning to end, your stats remain the same. Namco Bandai says this decision was made in order to keep the entirety of the game accessible to all users.
One of the cool parts about We Ski we told you about in our last preview was the open environment that you can cruise through at your own leisure. You can press the plus button to open a list of available events, but you don't have to bother yourself with any of that if you don't want to. Now, we can tell you that this same rule applies to the game's multiplayer component. All four players will be able to ski anywhere around the mountain in a free-roaming style as they create impromptu contests, but the option to take part in rigid events also exists.
The main theme throughout We Ski--from its simple controls, to its lack of progression, to its syrupy-sweet visuals--appears to be accessibility. One feature that should help that will be the budget $30 price tag, which you'll see on the box when it's released May 13.