Now for something completely different. Usually I avoid casual games, but Bandai Namco's We Ski for Wii got my attention for a couple of reasons. One, it's one of the rare Wii titles that features compatibility with the Wii Balance Board. Another is that its sequel, We Ski and Snowboard, was listed among the now-defunct Nintendo Gamer magazine's top games for Wii. I'd also enjoyed the skiing mini-games in Wii Fit, so was somewhat looking forward to more of the same.

I wasn't expecting much, but the game was definitely less active than Wii Fit. Although challenges similar to the skiing activities in that game are mixed in there somewhere, the focus seems to be more on just skiing around a large mountain (with 14 courses), taking in the virtual scenery, and exploring. There are different types of mini-games, but many of them are "fetch quest" like and don't require any thought or much skill. The skiing controls work well and the Balance Board compatibility is good, and the non-Balance Board controls seem polished as well. Performing tricks in the air requires memorizing button presses and motion controls, but for the most part they're pretty intuitive. Winning a mini-game nets you stars which unlock various costumes (who doesn't want to ski around a mountain in a bear suit?), and there are nice Bandai Namco specific references, like Pac-Man theme music occasionally playing over the in-game loudspeakers.

The graphics are very basic, and some of the challenges are obtuse. For example, along with tackling mini-games you can earn a grade by completing each of the game's courses (each of which features some unique feature, like jumps or more powder or a steeper gradient). You're graded on various metrics including time and speed, but also unnecessary metrics such as the number of turns. The exact requirements for fulfilling each of these is hidden and ends up requiring a lot of trial and error. Since you're navigating over these courses many times while fulfilling other objectives you'll eventually earn the top rank in them I suppose, but overall I got bored pretty quickly with the very basic gameplay. Apparently there are some hidden areas and extra events, such as one involving tracking down a Yeti, and the game also supports multiplayer where I think you can roam the mountain and compete in mini-games together.

The overall ambience is fairly relaxing and it does give the feel of being on the slopes, but as a gaming experience this was just too shallow for me. It was nice to dust off my Balance Board, but I'm skeptical that the sequel will have much more to offer. Maybe one day I'll check it out.

Ski over to these We Ski links:
- Apparently the game has sold over 1.2 million copies
- Entry at Metacritic. The review at the now-defunct 1up.com was one of the most complimentary.
- FAQ at GameFAQs

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