Aug 13, 2012
Endless runners are en vogue, but what about endless skiiers? Why aren’t they a wildly-imitated method of transportation in endless games? It seems like a natural fit, with skiing being a downhill activity. Gravity never ends! And neither does Ski Safari. Players control poor Sven, who is roused from his restful slumber by an oncoming avalanche. So, he must ski and keep on skiing, or it won’t end well for him. Thankfully, Sven is quite the adept skiier. He can do backflips in the air, or more appropriately, the player can make him do backflips in the air that increase his speed and points multiplier, because even when faced with oncoming death, Sven is all about style points. Sven is such an adept skiier that he doesn’t even need to necessarily use skis. Penguins? Sure! Ride on the back of a yeti? Go for it! Ride the wings of an eagle? Definitely! Heck, he can even ride a snowmobile, which isn’t really skiing. But Sven’s such a cool guy that he lets the animals ride with him.
The interesting thing with Ski Safari is that despite having coins to earn, and items to unlock, there’s no in-app purchases at all. It’s easy to forget that IAP can really corrupt progression curves, and become about subtly suggesting purchases, rather than making the player carefully consider what they want to do with their earnings.
Interestingly, the game can kind of play itself â€“ kind of. Just let it sit there without touching anything, and Sven will ski for a while, maybe even get the score into 5 digits, if the yetis are favorable. It goes on a bit longer than most endless runners would if left untouched, but then again Ski Safari has no need for bottomless pits.
The rotation can be tricky to handle â€“ sometimes there’s just barely enough room to nail that landing and keep that snowmobile with a yeti and penguin on it from blowing up, slowing things down just enough to make that avalanche seem perilously close. Also, I don’t know if it’s a bug or a feature, but sometimes when riding the eagle and falling from a great height, Sven would just fall straight through the mountain. Game over.
Ski Safari is fun because it’s such a lightweight experience. Just jump in, make a great high score run, don’t feel pressured to be buying upgrades because there’s no way to earn them. There are missions, but these wind up feeling a lot more natural than in many games. This feels a lot more like it’s purely about high scores, rather than about trying to keep the player invested long enough to spend money. It’s nice to remember the true goal of the genre with this.
Until Defiant Development gets smart and adds it in, because hey, we all gotta get paid.