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Game Review #134: When Ski Lifts Go Wrong (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Chad M.

Developer: Hugecalf Studios

Publisher: Curve Digital

Category: Puzzle

Release Date: 01.23.2019

Price (at time of review): $14.99

Buy When Ski Lifts Go Wrong from the Nintendo eShop here.

Engineering & Physics For The Win

For the second time in two weeks, I get to take a crack at a construction-based simulation video game. Right off the bat I was worried though, as it’s not a terribly large genre in the Switch’s eShop, that two in the same genre would maybe become a tad stale or boring, even though I love puzzle games. Luckily, both games are far different and each stand on their own. Specifically, this one shines even brighter as it adds a lot under the hood and also adds to the gameplay with a nudge in a more humorous direction than I thought possible in this genre. British indie developers Hugecalf Studios and publisher Curve Digital released When Skies Lifts Go Wrong to early access back in 2017, and after all that time it’s finally getting an official release and hitting the Switch now in 2019. For the rest of the review, I’ll refer to the game as “WSLGW”, so now let’s jump into it.

Hand Me My Hard Hat, It’s Work Time

So, as stated before, WSLGW is a construction-based game where you use engineering- and physics-based skills to construct objects that help transport the tourists from one place to the next. The premise is pretty straightforward, as you are a mountain resort engineer who must build to keep the facility working, and as usual with games like these, there isn’t much of a storyline. But what kept me invested from the start was that the tutorials by the NPC guides are fairly funny, and it helps to make me feel like I’m running the mountain, have to keep my guests happy and, more importantly, alive.

Controls & Gameplay

Again, this is one you can play in either handheld or docked mode, and by doing so you will completely alter your gaming experience. With handheld mode, you’ll primarily use the screen like you would in mobile gaming, but I spent most of my time playing docked mode with a pro controller to gauge the overall experience on a home console.

You use the left analog stick as your main cursor, where you move over the terrain with a grid behind it to help you find where to place the structures. You’ll be using all types of materials like wood, planks, steel, road, ropes, cable wheels and more. By using these items, you’ll construct facilities and infrastructures such as chairlifts, gondolas, jumps, bridges, and ramps. By doing so, you’ll help skiers and snowboarders in the winter and bikers in the summer. The controls take up every single button on the controller, and it can sometimes be tough to remember it all, but luckily it’s all on the screen as well, which helped with pacing so that I wasn’t constantly running to a menu to double check.

You have to strain your physics brain while building. As stated before, you’re not just working to build objects but you have to keep the guests alive as if the structural integrity isn’t solid it will fall leaving us to deal with hilarious consequences. You might experience a skier slamming into a tree or building killing them on impact and smearing blood along the mountain side. This added fun and overall drive to keep the guest safe and you on your toes. As the physics are real to life you have to worry about everything from tension to drag and find weak points to fortify and make them safe. You can switch between build mode and simulation mode where you can see if the structure will hold up and if you can reach the goals you’re aiming for.

It’s not only building a simulation that you partake in with WSLGW, you will also take control of snowboarders, snowmobiles, bikers and more. The controls are very simple; this isn’t Tony Hawk so don’t expect the moon. You mostly control them in conjunction with building, for example a ramp to jump, so you can reach the other side of the mountain. This adds another layer to help keep things fresh.

Fun Factor & Replay Value

My time spent with WSLGW was a lot of fun, and to be honest, I’m not done just yet. It was too much fun to leave, but I had to stop to write the review. When you get deeper into the game, you can spend 20 to 30 minutes on just one puzzle as I did, but then I’d walk away, and when I came back I’d figure it out in a couple minutes. As there are over a 100 challenges and levels, you’ll be busy for a while. There are goals and medals to collect on each level, which will add replay value if you want to go back and collect everything. Also, like most construction-based games, there is an added layer of difficulty by not spending over a certain amount that is allowed per level.

Audio & Visuals

The soundtrack is an upbeat instrumental melody that was fine, but also a little forgettable. The visuals have a cartoony low-poly look that are rather enjoyable. The environments are well-designed, and there isn’t a lot of detail on the NPCs that ride from one side to the other, but again, it’s to be expected. However, when they wreck, it is hilarious and the blood stays smeared in the ice or dirt until you complete the level, as a reminder or your failed attempts.

Final Thoughts

On the exterior, you may look at When Ski Lifts Go Wrong and think this is just a mobile game or a cute poly puzzle game. The best part is, it’s all that and much more! The depth of this game was surprising, and it left me laughing as well as working like crazy to solve puzzles. This is a title you should have in your collection of puzzle games on the Switch, as you will be having a heck of a lot of fun with this one.

Score: 8.5/10

Buy When Ski Lifts Go Wrong from the Nintendo eShop here.

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*Review Code Provided by Plan of Attack

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