Exploring The Slipperiest Slopes of SNOW

What is SNOW? That’s a good question, and one with multiple answers. SNOW, at surface value, is a skiing/snowboarding kinda-but-not-really simulator-like game with a strong focus on performing tricks and multiplayer challenges. Well, that’s what SNOW will be in the near future. For now, the snowboarding portion is missing, there’s little to do or see outside of a few snowy slopes and some pretty forestry, and the multiplayer is patchy at best. That’s one answer.

The second is actually a shift from the norm. SNOW, while very much a game about skiing, is in equal parts a game about exploration. There’s an open world to dig into, and while currently limited by its alpha state, SNOW practically bleeds potential. There are various nifty jump points to discover, and plenty of snow to drudge through, rocks to dodge and scenery inspired kodak moments to capture. In fact, SNOW offers a freedom seldom found in its respective genre, and it appropriately presents its world in playground form.

Unfortunately, there are nearly as many negatives as there are reasons to love SNOW, so I’ll just get those out of the way now. Firstly, it’s important to note that SNOW is in pre-alpha and thus should not be played by anyone expecting a “full” game. The content available, which is expectedly limited, merely hints at what the game will offer, and while there’s potential for something exciting beneath its jagged exterior, there are too few compelling reasons to hop into SNOW in its current state. As it stands, there is no sound, a majority of its promised features have yet to be implemented, it can become a buggy mess at random instances and there’s no gameplay variety whatsoever.

With that said, it’s also an impressive, strangely addictive and surprisingly fun experience — when you’re not body deep in the snow-powdered terrain of the worlds rockiest hillside, that is. After all, there’s no business like snow business, and despite the missed ‘Roger the Snowplowman’ cameo opportunity, SNOW can be a blast if you’re willing to ignore its flaws. It helps that it’s also quite pretty in the looks department.

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As is necessary of a winter sports game, skiing in SNOW is good and incredibly fun. Moving around the mountain sides, gliding across the slopes, tripping after an attempted back-flip and flying halfway across the map before being halted by a massive boulder — yeah, it’s all fun. The controls, while seemingly simple, do require much more dexterity than anticipated. It’s one of those cliche ‘practice makes perfect’ situations. While PC veterans should find no trouble with the familiar control scheme, there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to performing certain tricks, which are perhaps the least interesting of SNOW’s feature set.

While the main attraction is the open world skiing experience, various tricks can be performed during your time on SNOW’s beautifully detailed mountains. Naturally, properly landing a trick offers a momentary sense of satisfaction, but little else. And that’s the problem. Accumulating points via performing these tricks, at least for the time being, is pointless. Sure, it’s fun the first few times, but it quickly becomes a ‘why bother’ scenario. The problem isn’t trick variety, either. There’s plenty of stuff you can do, it just isn’t very interesting.

When the multiplayer finally comes together, points will likely be part of the competitiveness of the sport, so if you’re planning on sticking with SNOW for the long run, it never hurts to practice early.

From a technical standpoint, Snow is mildly impressive. The white of the snow shines nicely, the trees look enough like trees not to be confused for something else, and there are plenty of ‘whoah’ worthy views as you explore the landscape. The problem: animations are inconsistent. No, SNOW never looks bad — not by a long shot. Actually, it’s quite imposing for a game developed by a team of three. However, animations are a tad stiff, and the character often looks like he’s being controlled by various puppet strings. This, of course, has no impact on the gameplay — which is surprisingly smooth.

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So you’re impatient and want SNOW now? That’s cool. SNOW can be, and often is, a great game. If you’re willing to put away the fine-tooth comb for a few hours, you probably won’t be disappointed.

Perhaps the greatest thing about SNOW is the freedom it offers. The excitement of discovering new jump locations, interesting areas or gorgeous views never dwindles. In the near future, I can see myself spending countless hours maneuvering around its world with a friend or two. With a feature list that boasts multiplayer events and challenges that can be conquered alone or with friends, real world brand products to customize your character with and a free-to-play model that doesn’t rob you blind — who wouldn’t? For now, however, there’s simply not enough on its plate. Also, despite searching to the best of my abilities, I couldn’t manage to locate Sasquatch. Very disappointing.

You can see SNOW’s greatness within its current state of insubstantial features and flawed mechanics — that’s not something that can be said for many Early Access titles. The question, given its $14.99 price tag, is whether Snow is worth a purchase, and the answer is: it depends. Do you like skiing? No, I mean, do you really like skiing? Scratch that. Do you freaking love skiing? If you repeatedly shouted yes at your computer screen, then SNOW is probably for you — with a slight caveat. Skiing, the meat and bones of any skiing game worth its chops, is all there is in SNOW’s current repertoire. Promises of challenges color its menu, and the online functionality has some serious potential, but ultimately, if skiing across an open, mostly barren environment and performing various unavailing tricks isn’t what you want in a skiing game, then come back when SNOW hits beta. SNOW is, however, a great game in the making.