I’m deathly afraid to go skiing or snowboarding. I can’t snowboard because I have the balance of an alcoholic on a Friday night at 2 am and I have been skiing as part of a field trip when I was in 5th grade and it was not a pretty sight. I took all the beginners courses on how to stop and go fast and felt I had it figured out after about 15 minutes, rookie mistake. I took it to the next level and tried taking on the Novice hill and forgot what I was doing as I picked up some speed, naturally, I freaked out. I was able to slow down eventually, but what ultimately stopped me was a tree at the bottom of the hill.
Yes, I hit a tree. I was not seriously injured, however, my lunch bag was stolen and inside that lunch bag was my original Gameboy with about 7 games. I have never forgotten that because I was devastated! That is why I fear skiing and instead of doing the real thing, I play games like When Ski Lifts Go Wrong so I can relive those glory days without bruising my face all over again!
The game was developed by Hugecalf Studios and published by Curve Digital. Originally made for PC and released in Early Access on October 4th of 2017 under the name “Carried Away”. It’s very straight forward in terms of its overall concept. You have to get your character from point A to point B by building a structure that can sustain itself as well as the character over environmental objects. Levels contain objectives that you can strive to unlock, as well as medals. There is a budget that you want to try to stay below, however, if you do go above it then the game doesn’t seem to punish you for it. Just keep in mind that there is probably always a cheaper way of completing the level.
If you’ve ever played a bridge building game before, such as Build a Bridge!, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, then you’ll feel completely at home with When Ski Lifts Go Wrong. It’s technically ‘building a bridge’ yet instead of roads and cars, it’s wires and ski lifts. Thanks to the game not really penalising you for going over budget, you can create some rather elaborate structures as you get into the later levels, whereas in the early ones you’re pretty much only required to build a rather simple A to B structure. I did like the fact they gave us mid-mission objectives, like the medals to collect, as it gives you a reason to think outside of the box and expand upon your spectacular ski lift.
There are a total of 8 worlds (mountains) for you to sink your skis into, with 13 levels per world, that’s 104 levels if you don’t want to do the math! Some levels are pretty simple to figure out, but there are certainly some head scratchers if you are shooting to stay under budget as well as get all the objectives done. You will find that as you progress, you may have to replay levels to conquer separate objectives. I found that my favourite levels were the ones where you controlled the characters themselves! In fact, I do wish that there were more levels like that because it really changes dynamic of the game when building the structure is only half of what makes the level a challenge.
Also, yes, you heard that correctly. There are levels where you control your little skiing character! If you’ve ever played Bridge Constructor Stunts, this is essentially the same. So, we have segments where we’re building the ski lift to get our little guy to the top of the mountain, and then we have segments where we build ramps and jumps for the skier to traverse. This is a nice change of pace and breaks up the gameplay from just building a ski lift to also manually taking control of a character ala Trials style and performing tricks to obtain medals and earn points.
The controls in When Ski Lifts Go Wrong are pretty straight-forward, although I admit I had troubles at first. I’ll blame that on user error from lost brain cells from skiing headlong into a tree! There is a decent tutorial at the beginning which is under the guise the first world called “The Rookie Mountains”. These levels do a great job teaching you how to utilise all of the mechanics you’ll use throughout the entirety of the game. From how to control the characters, to setting up your structures from scratch, you’ll feel confident moving forward. I found it nice that you can replay any level, so If I was hung up on a level, I would go back to those beginning levels just to re-educate myself on certain aspects of the building.
Visually speaking, the game is not trying to be anything more than it really needs to be. Don’t expect Red Dead Redemption 2 graphics here folks! That’s ok though because we now know that graphics don’t make a game. When Ski Lifts Go Wrong has a low-poly design to them that, if anything, gives them a little more charm. The colours really popped on the switch’s screen and it didn’t look half bad in the docked mode. The game is playable either way, but I personally preferred playing in handheld mode.
There is also a sandbox mode that plays as your canvas to make the wackiest designs that are humanly possible. This includes setting up your medals and everything in-between. The only gripe I have about this mode is that I wish there was a way to upload your creations to a server as well as download designs others have made. This would add an infinite amount of gameplay to the game as well as be an inspiration for folks that want to build their own courses. (On Steam, there is Steam Workshop functionality, so you can actually share and download creations if you’re playing on the PC version)
When Ski Lifts Go Wrong is a fun and intuitive take on the construction genre, with both creation and Trials-like gameplay. In terms of the core mechanics, it’s not revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination. There are multiple types of construction type games out there to choose from. However, the thing to remember is that the game keeps it simple and gives the player the freedom to solve the puzzles as they see fit. This is great as it means that everyone of all ages and skill levels can jump in and enjoy the game without any issues or difficulty spikes.
Most important than everything else though, playing When Ski Lifts Go Wrong will save you from finding yourself smacking into an oak stop sign and losing your Gameboy!