February 29, 2008 - Last year Namco Bandai announced it would bring Family Ski to the Wii in Japan. A revival of the casual Family Sports series, it was announced Family Ski would use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to imitate ski poles. Today the publisher announced it will release the game in North America this May under the name We Ski. Support for Wii Fit's Balance Board has also been added.
Namco Bandai gave IGN a lift ticket so we could check out the slopes for ourselves. We Ski is a very light-hearted, casual take on skiing games. The mountain is an open world in which every location is accessible from the moment the player puts on their skis. The plus button on the Wiimote brings up a map from which gamers can warp to any location at any time. The developers intend for players to explore the mountain, meet people, and engage in a variety of events such as racing, search & rescue, or delivery.
First, you'll need to create your character. You can either import your Mii or create someone from scratch. Initially there are only a few gear options available, but as you play you'll earn star points to unlock new items. There are over 200 character combinations and over 170 types of gear. If you choose to play with your Mii there will be some head items such as goggles or hats that won't be available.
We Ski can be played entirely with the Wiimote and Nunchuk. Of, if you have Wii Fit, you can ski with the Balance Board. The drawback is that the Board can only be used in single-player mode. Multiplayer is available for up to four people, but you'll have to leave the Board back at the cabin.
When skiing without the Board, users manipulate the controls like ski poles -- pull the Wii Remote and Nunchuk down on either side of your waist to gain momentum. Once you get going, rotate the controllers 90 degrees towards each other to couch and gain speed. Then you can move them both from side to side to turn. The process is fluid once you get the hang of it. We found it was easier to avoid over-compensating on turns than in many other racing games. To stop, simply pull back on the analog stick. If you run into something and lose your balance, just shake the controllers to right yourself.
Using the Balance Board takes more practice. You still "push" with the Wiimote and Nunchuk but steering is handled by leaning left and right. A balance meter at the bottom of the screen indicates where your weight is resting. It was a little easier to over-compensate, as noted above, but we imagine with practice handling turns will become more manageable.
From the main menu players can choose to enter Freestyle mode (the primary, free-roaming game) or they can immediately enter a Race, Slalom, or Mogul event either solo or with friends. Players can choose from 20 races, 20 slalom runs, and five mogul events. There is also an Album mode where pictures taken during Photo Shoot events can be viewed. Players can store 100 pictures on their console and trade them online.
During events you'll encounter ramps and you can launch yourself in the air and use the controls to perform tricks. However, Namco Bandai was clear that tricks aren't the focus of the game. Instead, it hopes this will be a relaxing ski trip based on exploration.
We Ski has some nice graphical flourishes that are easy on the eyes. The snow looks good (pretty important, right?), and you can see way off into the distant mountain ranges. Trees are flat, though, made of cross polygons and only the trunks are interactive. Players will encounter ice along the way, but there won't be varying depths of snow.
The music definitely had us bobbing our heads during the demonstration. What we heard was a mix of surf guitar, spy music, and synthesizers. It was pretty catchy and fit the breezy tone of the game.
Namco Bandai hasn't announced a firm release date for We Ski, yet, but look for it in May around the same time as Wii Fit.