|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Coldwood Interactive AB||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Valcon Games LLC||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 24, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
It's hard to beat a good arcade racer; as they feature all the high-speed adrenaline of a racing sim with none of the cumbersome realism. That's basically what Ski-Doo Snowmobile Challenge does for snow racing. It's a very fun game with a sense of speed and a discount price, and those who've grown sick of the major arcade racers (Burnout, Need for Speed, Pure, etc.) would be wise to give it a shot. However, there are plenty of flaws to bear in mind before plunking down your $30.
The basics of the control setup will be familiar to anyone who's played a racing game lately (accelerate with the right trigger, brake with the left trigger, and steer with the left joystick), but quite a few nuances come into play when driving a snowmobile rather than a car. Most importantly, you can lean forward and back by pushing the left joystick up and down, respectively; leaning forward puts the weight on your steering skis, and leaning back helps you accelerate. Leaning forward is particularly important, especially when handling tight curves, and it can be quite a bear to master. Also, during jumps, you have to take care to make sure your snowmobile is correctly aligned to land.
Another unique aspect to this game is that when you jump, you can pull off tricks by simultaneously pressing a bumper button and holding one of eight directions on the left joystick. Keeping the buttons held prolongs the trick, and on long jumps you can even pull off two separate tricks. Tricks earn you "adrenaline," akin to Burnout's boost, and when your meter is full, you can use your adrenaline to gain a significant speed increase. Bumping into other racers (at the risk of crashing or spinning off-course) also earns you adrenaline.
Single races are available, of course, in addition to split-screen and online multiplayer. All of these work well, though we found few people online. The heart of the game, however, is its career mode. Here you'll take on a series of challenges, unlocking new courses and new snowmobiles as you go. You earn money from winning and can spend the cash on upgrades to your vehicles, making them faster and more maneuverable. You can also customize your ride visually, if you're into that kind of thing.
The races, for the most part, are rewarding and challenging. There's a great sense of speed, especially when you turn on the boost, and it feels like an accomplishment to truly master a course. Many of the tracks are complicated ordeals, demanding that you speed up, slow down, pull off tricks, and use your boost at just the right moments if you want to win. This isn't to say mistakes aren't forgiven, though; there's enough rubber banding that you can catch up by driving well, and with the push of a button you can reset yourself to the middle of the track, though you'll lose your momentum and adrenaline when you do this.
The racing could have used a bit more polish, however. There's no tutorial; just a few pointers presented as text during loading times. The A.I. tends to make the opponent racers cluster in a very small group, meaning that you'll tend to be in last a lot and first a lot, but not so much in the middle; this also means that getting from last to first entails working your way through a dense cluster of snowmobiles that can knock you off course. Also, we would have liked to have seen a more gradual ramp-up of the challenge, because we blew through the first few races without letting up on the accelerator, only to find ourselves dumped in some veritable mazes of twists and turns.