Snowboarding videogames were a pretty big deal a few years ago. I can recall pouring countless hours into 1080° Avalanche and SSX Tricky over the course of just a few years. Pretty quickly, though, the snowboarding game craze blew over, and snow sport games in general haven’t gotten much attention in games ever since. Last year’s SSX reboot was the most recent to try breathing new life into the genre, but it did so with very little success. All that said, for some odd reason, skiing hasn’t been too deeply explored in the videogame space, and Poppermost Productions is trying to fix that.
Currently residing in Sweden, the team of three that makes up Poppermost Productions is working on SNOW, an extraordinarily promising skiing game being built in Crytek’s CryENGINE. Just recently, the game entered an early Alpha phase, which players can buy into through Steam’s Early Access program. It’s still pretty rough around the edges, but SNOW may very well turn out to be the definitive digital-skiing experience.
With controller support still not fully implemented, those who choose to play SNOW in its current state will have to do so with a mouse and keyboard; and it sort of goes without saying that a keyboard/mouse setup doesn’t work particularly well with games of this nature. That said, after a bit of practice I was able to slide down the game’s many slopes with relative ease. While the game does cater to those who want to preform tricks and the like, I found myself having fun just navigating down the wide, open mountain. It was peaceful, and utterly relaxing, in part because the game is incredibly easy on the eyes, despite it’s very acute presentation of speed. For those interested in preforming tricks à la SSX Tricky, you’re in luck, because that also functions pretty well considering how early-on the game is in development. Some animations are pretty rote, and depending on what the game’s final tone is, some more realistic physics may be in order, but the movement it pretty great despite it currently being (mostly) restricted to a keyboard.
Even though I was told that controller support was not fully implemented, I decided to see if it would work at all, much to my surprise, it sort of did. While jump and trick buttons had not been mapped yet, I could move around just fine with my gamepad. When I first started playing around with the controller, though, I decided to press every button to see if any would enact a response. While most did nothing, the up arrow (on a PS3 controller) changed my camera view to something a bit more cinematic than the traditional third-person, pressing it again altered camera once more, this time to a first-person view. At first I imagined that the perspective would make for an vomit-inducing experience, but it was actually wonderful. While the actual”skiing” animation did prove to be disorienting in the view, I soon found myself to love skiing from the first-person perspective. Later on I decided to turn the game back on and try playing in first-person with just the keyboard, but oddly enough — while I could change camera views — first-person mode was nowhere to be found, so I decided to plug the controller back in. Sure enough, I was able to access first-person again. It’s odd that the option is seemingly inaccessible from the keyboard, but it caused a whole host of ideas to rush into my mind. I thought: This game would be perfect with Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra support. So I can only hope those peripherals are implemented some time in the future.
There’s still much work to be done, though. On top of incomplete controller support, the game has no sound, some jarringly robotic animations, and, frankly, it just lacks content right now. I have a fair amount of confidence, though, that once it is a final product, SNOW could be something great. While no true release date has been announced, it has been said that SNOW will be free-to-play, and will have an in-game store. As I said earlier, though, you can buy-into the early alpha now. If you do so, you’ll receive exclusive items and content for free once the game launches. While the game may not feel like a fantastic deal in its current form, if you want to keep this promising game in development, buying into this very early, sort of buggy version is probably the best way to do so.