Feb 14, 2011

Alpine Boarder

Skiing games are a mixed bag for me. I love Alpine Racer on the iPhone and would like to see Namco release an Android version if it. The only skiing game I've tried on Android is Backcountry Ski and that was over a year ago... maybe it's improved, but it's still $5. Alpine Boarder caught me by surprise. It looked pretty good from the screen shots, albeit a little small, but as a free game I figured it warranted a try. To my surprise, I was quite pleased! The game was actually fun and made me want to play again.

Alpine Boarder isn't actually a skiing game... it's a snowboarding game. And you control your snow boarder by tilting your phone back and forth. Initially I found myself twisting the phone, and while that works it can have the side effect of making it more difficult to see your phone's screen. Tilting works just fine, though. The game features several slopes presented as a campaign. In order to advance you have to earn a medal which means finishing in one of the top three spots to earn the gold, silver, or bronze. As you snow board down the hill you have to maneuver between various sets of flags, but outside of that it's up to you. Feel like heading on through the forest and trying to avoid the trees? Go for it! Naturally you'll pick up speed when headed straight down and you can slow down, or even stop, by steering left or right from that. The game features five basic types of terrain: snow, rough snow (slows you down), ice (speeds you up), rocks (jumps) and trees (break your leg, they will).

The graphics in Alpine Boarder are good, but they are also small. Fortunately the size doesn't detract from the game as, with the perspective the game uses, the small size lets you see further ahead so that you can make better control decisions sooner. The controls for the game as very responsive and that's probably what made this so much fun to play. When playing you can only miss two of the flags before having to quit the race in the shame, but the game is pretty liberal in giving you credit for sliding between flags.

qrcodeAlpine Boarder isn't without fault, though, and actually there's a bit of a list of issues. For a start, once I made it to level 2 I started getting warnings telling me I'm about to run out of memory and that the game might shut down without warning in the middle of a race. The game has never actually shut down and this error may be due to my seemingly ancient Motorola Droid phone and its lack of memory compared to newer devices. Next, when starting a race, there's no countdown... once the game loads it goes. It would be nice to have some indication that the race is about to begin as they do in real life (they do that for a reason!). Third, you can collide with other boarders and knock them down or be knocked down... who falls down, though, is anyone's guess. If I could better understand that perhaps I could use it to my advantage. Fourth, it appears that my competition doesn't have to ski through the flags in the same way that I am forced to. Am I right? Finally, the game is pretty hard, especially after level one, and the requirement of finishing with a gold, silver, or bronze in order to advance and see new levels seems steep. It would be nice to be able to skip ahead to another level at anytime, or, at the very least, after trying and placing in a prior race.

Yes, that's a long list of issues, but don't let them scare you away from what is overall a nicely done game. If racing in the snow holds any appeal to you then you'll want to give Alpine Boarder a try. It's a nice casual game that can be played for a few minutes here and a few minutes there. It has a really good feel to it and earns 4/5 stars.

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