Review: When Ski Lifts Go Wrong (Switch)

Let’s get physical.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 02/04/2019 06:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Smart puzzles; great tool suite to take advantage of; a bunch of puzzles to contend with; Sandbox mode offers tons of replay value; snowboarding helps to break up the gameplay
Poison Mushroom for...
Bland soundtrack; can sometimes be too slow for its own good, especially when test running constructs; controls can be finicky

Curve Digital is one of those publishers that always seems to stumble upon random, fun games for everyone to play. Case in point: When Ski Lifts Go Wrong. The title was originally dubbed Carried Away back in the day during PC early access. Now rebranded, this final version of developer Hugecalf Studios’ physics-based puzzle game has landed on Switch and is a breath of crisp, alpine air for fans of physics.

Ski Lifts has a deceptively simple premise: get skiers to the top of the slopes so that they can safely descend down them. It’s not quite so easy to accomplish, however, when a variety of obstacles prevent that from happening. Whether it’s some tricky terrain to overcome or managing limited resources, Ski Lifts presents players with scenario after scenario to challenge their creative skills and get them thinking logically.

The resultant blend of physics and puzzle-solving is brilliant fun. It’s not just a matter of sticking poles into the ground and slinging ropes atop them— it’s imperative to take into consideration the safety of passengers, as unbalanced and flimsy constructs will assuredly snap and take said skiers to a frosty demise. Ski Lifts has a bunch of different ways of rigging gondolas and chairlifts to get everyone to and fro without incident, but it would be a lie to say it’s not hilarious to watch calamity after calamity as players experiment with different setups.

Building is facilitated by a rather robust suite of construction tools. Ski Lifts guides players through a series of tutorials that reveal the finer points of crafting. It’s hand-holding without being nauseating, as the game coaxes players into action but doesn’t treat them like idiots. I would say, though, that while I felt that fabricating lifts and so on was easy enough, there were times that the controls weren’t as responsive as they should be. Switching between nodes could be finicky, but at least it’s an irregular occurrence. Generally, Ski Lifts controls smoothly. Just expect some hiccups.

The game also does a delightful job of switching things up. When not building ski lifts, there are segments where the player gets to take control of a hapless resort patron to actually zoom through the snow, including on snowboards! The controls here are reminiscent of titles like Excitebike and Trials in that it’s simply a matter of tilting left and right to maneuver through courses. While it could have potentially been jarring to switch from building to steering, all of the action is based around Ski Lifts’ excellent physics engine, making it a natural extension of the gameplay.

Ski Lifts’ physics aren’t attempting to recreate reality, but there’s a familiarity to them nonetheless that makes it easy to intuit where supports should be placed and how far back platforms need to be in order to maximize jumps. Still, everything is playful and cartoony enough that Ski Lifts never veers into simulation territory. This is especially true of the visuals, as well. The game has a quirky, polygonal aesthetic that evokes early Nintendo 64 and PlayStation games; it’s good, albeit simplistic. Regardless, it’s a look that works in absolute harmony with the gameplay. The soundtrack is slightly generic and far from stimulating, but it’s innocuous and doesn’t detract from the experience.

There are optional medals to pursue across Ski Lifts’ eight different levels and thirteen stages apiece. For completionists, it provides a whole new layer to the proceedings. Building constructs to reach these collectibles can make mildly challenging stages much more so, which should please players who really want to be tested. There’s also a Sandbox mode where players can run wild with Ski Lifts’ brilliant building tools. All in all, there’s a lot here to keep players coming back for more.

Overall, there’s quite a lot to love about Ski Lifts. There are a ton of stages to take on, each offering some new entertaining twist on what’s come before. The presentation isn’t especially innovative, but it’s always good to see devs playing around with the poly-centric visuals of the late ’90s and the marriage between visuals and gameplay in the title can’t be overstated. It’s not the first physics-based puzzler on Switch, but When Ski Lifts Go Wrong is definitely worth a look. Its sedate pacing won’t make everyone happy, but this is an endearing and inventive game.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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