Ski Jumping looks incredibly terrifying, it’s not something I’d want to even attempt in real life due to fear of breaking my leg or neck as I come crashing to the ground. However, thanks to Virtual Reality, I can give the adrenaline-pumping sport a go without the risk of harming anything other than objects which I can’t see as I flap my arms around to stabilise my virtual persona. The game which I’ll be immersing myself in today is Ski Jumping Pro VR, a PSVR and PC VR title that launched in December 2019.
Developed by Yippee Entertainment (who have now been bought by Team17) and published by Kalypso Games, Ski Jumping Pro VR is the virtual reality edition of their Free-to-Play mobile game, Ski Jumping Pro. This is a first for me as I don’t think I’ve actually played or reviewed a game that is both a ‘flat’ F2P mobile game AND a premium VR experience; However, I have played both versions in order to see what the differences are – just like I did with games such as Into the Dead 2.
The controls for Ski Jumping Pro VR are super simple. You grab both of your Move Controllers, put one in each hand, squat as if you’re actually about to ski, then it’s time to perform the ancient art of QTE with the Move Controllers. Once the wind is in your favour you literally push yourself off in real life, then make yourself small as you approach the jump of destiny – once you’re in the air you perform the Y from YMCA (which now controls your legs), finally bringing your arm-legs inwards before you hit the ground and do the splits.
Despite the controls being straightforward, I spent an hour failing over and over again because you have a timer that counts down as you push off, I thought you had to push off when it hit zero – I was wrong. You have to look around for the wind-o-meter and push when it turns green. Once I figured this out, the game got much more fun as I was actually flying through the air like an eagle! Sure, I still crashed and burnt a number of times, but I actually managed to come in first place on a few jumps and move up the ladder of the overall leaderboard.
The main issue with Ski Jumping Pro VR is that the entire game is literally what I’ve just written. Yeah, you’ll get to participate in various venues, upgrade your gear, and change your appearance, but the core gameplay doesn’t deviate from the above mechanics. Now, I know what you’re thinking “The game is called Ski Jumping Pro VR, so what do you expect” – true, but unless you’re really into Ski Jumping, or just want a game you can ‘jump’ into for short-burst sessions, it can get pretty repetitive.
Okay, let’s look at the positive things with Ski Jumping Pro VR.
• The ramps and locations look great in VR. Despite every location being a ski jump ramp with an audience at the bottom waiting to see if your mess up and fall over, every location looks different and unique in its own way. There are nineteen venues within the game, all from around the world. The ramps also have varying heights which result in you performing longer jumps and having more intense experiences.
• There is both a Quick Start mode, which allows you to ‘jump’ right in, and a career mode made up of 62 events. So, whether you want to just perform a few jumps or try to progress your character, it’s up to you.
• In regards to your character, depending on your position within each of the jumps and your performance, you get rewarded cash and stars. These are used to buy new gear such as gloves, skis, helmets and boots, each one boosting various aspects of your jump, such as focus time, take-off, and flight.
• Not everything is available in the beginning. There are a number of jumps, contests and venues which are unlocked through progress in the career mode – I really like games that do this as it gives you more to play with as you get better.
For me, playing Ski Jumping Pro VR in short bursts was lots of fun. As I said earlier, the mechanics are quite simple and the gameplay is repetitive due to the nature of the event it’s replicating. So, only doing a few jumps at a time in-between other games helped alleviate the monotony and ensured the overall experience remained fun whilst I worked on unlocking everything the game had to offer.
VR vs Mobile
I’ve been playing Ski Jumping Pro on my iPad – this is the Free-to-Play version of the game from the same publisher and developer. For a free game, it’s surprisingly feature-complete as it’s identical to its VR older brother. From what I’ve played so far, everything you get within the £15.99 Premium console edition is also within the mobile version although, as you’d expect, the game has a lot of microtransactions for those who wish to speed things up a little.
Whereas in the PSVR version you can only unlock new gear and jumps by using the stars and money you gain in-game, the mobile version lets you either use the same currencies or you can whip out your credit card and buy stars with cash (which can then be converted into in-game cash) or a boost to double all cash prizes. The mobile edition is also supported by adverts, which can be disabled for a one-off payment of £2.99. So, the price of the VR edition isn’t that bad when you add up all the small payments within the portable edition and factor in the fact you’ll also be getting the extra immersion through Virtual Reality.
One thing which is the same on both versions, which really annoyed me, is the loading times. Sure, it’s only about 10-20 seconds for each jump, but that’s a long time when you’re going in and out of the jumps quite often. The way the game works is, if you don’t get in the top 30 on your first jump, you go back to the menu and lose that round. If you do make it in the top 30, you get a second jump. So, the game loads the jump, then it has to load the menu when you lose/win, then load the next jump when you move on – it’s a small thing to moan about but if you’re not that good, you’ll see more loading screens than gameplay!
The VR effect
As someone who literally ‘gets the willies’ when going on roller coasters, those pirate ships, or simply looking down from high up, I was expecting the same effect whilst playing Ski Jumping Pro VR. However, due to the speed that you’re moving at (which feels really fast), and the fact you’re concentrating on the QTE motions to perform the jumps, I never really got affected by the stationary motion and distance between me and the ground. The whole experience made me glad that I wasn’t doing this in real life though as I would have had no legs left by now!
As mentioned above, the environments are really well done and greatly adds to the immersion delivered. After playing the mobile version, the venues are the same in both editions, only the VR ones obviously look and feel more real due to being able to look around and see the venue all around you within the newly created universe.
On a side note, I know the developer has now been acquired by Team17, but I would love for them, or Kalypso with a new developer, to make a full winter sports game in VR and have this game reconstructed as one of the events. This works really well in VR and I can easily see it as part of a much bigger and in-depth experience.
Ski Jumping Pro VR delivers the excitement and thrills of performing the ski jump without actually getting cold, or falling on your butt – which is great. Despite wishing there was more to the game other than just the ski jump, I can’t really complain as that’s what the focus of the game is. If played in short bursts then you’re bound to get more enjoyment out of it as you’ll experience the progression through unlocks and rewards without feeling the monotony and repetition which can be felt with long play sessions. Ski Jumping Pro VR is the most realistic ski jumping simulation game I’ve played in VR so far, even with the QTE motions (which work really well).
If you want to experience Ski Jumping Pro VR before you buy it, download the F2P game, Ski Jumping Pro, on iOS or Android devices. Other than the controls and process of unlocking through microtransactions, the game is essentially the same. Although, I will say that the VR version is much more immersive and fun to play – much better than tapping the screen as you do in the mobile edition.
Ski Jumping Pro VR£15.99
- - Really immerses you into the sport
- - Great looking venues
- - Lots of progression with new clothes and items to make you a better skier
- - Intuitive controls which mimics actually skiing (other than when your arms control your legs)
- - Great for short-burst sessions
- - Can get repetitive and monotonous in long sessions due to the game revolving around a single event
- - Loading times are a pain. They aren't really long but they're long enough to notice and get tired of seeing every minute or so
- - The overall feeling of the game was that it's a great replication of an event which should have been part of a game with multiple sports and events