Sometimes the best games aren’t the most complicated. Sometimes all it takes is a slope, a skier, a few penguins and some Yeti.
Ski Safari doesn’t offer much deviation from the standard endless runner with a tap mechanic. It takes some inspiration from Tiny Wings but manages to carve its own path in the snow thanks to a few neat ideas and great execution.
The premise is that your skier is woken by an avalanche, which knocks down your wooden hut and sends your bed sliding down the slope. Luckily, it seems that you sleep with your skis on as you’re soon sliding down the deadly slopes, the ever gaining avalanche as a constant threat behind you and the equivalent of the game’s timer. Trip over too many times or spend too long getting up and you’ll become a human Popsicle.
There are plenty of opportunities to fall, thanks to rocks placed in your path. These need to be jumped over with a simple tap on the screen. Tap as you hit an upward slope and you’ll gain some air, giving you time to do a few somersaults by holding the screen. In the tradition of all good skiing games, you’re going to have to land correctly, though and this means ensuring your skis are level with the ground as you make your descent. Hitting the snow at the wrong angle sends you in to a tumble and frantic tapping is the only thing between your continuing and the avalanche burying you. Coming down at the right angle and hitting a certain speed will give you a quick speed boost, though, so it’s all worth the risk.
Also in your path are penguins and Yeti. Far from being a hindrance, running into them gives you another speed boost by allowing them to give you a lift. Penguins lay on their tummies while Yeti run along with you on their back. Both give you an extra layer of protection against hitting the rocks, with the Yeti being sent into a slide once it trips over. Added to this you have an eagle who gives you a literal lift at a certain point in the game, a jetski for an extra push and some underground caves to slide through.
All of this is wrapped up in some pretty cute presentation. While it doesn’t have much of a story, the way the start of the game has been created and the wonderful animation of the characters gives you all you really need. The Yeti, in particular, are worth playing the game for alone. Some variety in the scenery would have been nice but I can see this being added in future updates.
Taking a cue from Tiny Wings and Jetpack Joyride, Ski Safari has a series of challenges which allow you to progress every time three objectives are met. This, in turn, allows you to get a head start by giving you various items right from the start of the game. What it doesn’t do so well is allow you to compare scores and progress against other players.
Gamecenter support is available and this gives you the standard worldwide high score charts, but an in game system would be preferable here, one that gives you both a score and your level of progress to match against friends and globally. Tiny Wings really took off because of this and I could see Ski Safari doing the same if this was included. I still think this is a great game and well worth downloading if you like your endless runners, but personally I would love to see the social integration aspect there as well.
Scoretable issues aside, Ski Safari is an excellent addition to the genre and offers up a lot of replay value. The simple control system and excellent characters make it easy to recommend to those looking for their next big endless runner title.
- Sound: 7
- Graphics: 8
- Gameplay: 8
- Longevity: 8
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