Tuesday 21 July 2015

Slalom (NES review)

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1987

Slalom was the very first game by Rare who later developed titles such as Donkey Kong Country (SNES) and GoldenEye 007 (N64). 

The three mountains on offer are Snowy Hill (Beginner), Steep Peak (Intermediate) and Mt. Nasty (Expert) and each feature eight courses within them. The objective is to reach the finish line within the time limit. A handy map at the top of the screen displays your current location as well as how far away you are to the finish line. Pushing Up on the d-pad makes your skier tuck for increased speed while Down causes you to brake. Once you get going the sense of speed is fantastic and there's no sign of slowdown or flicker. As you progress drone skiers, snowmen, trees and sledders try to get in your way and touching them will either slow you down or make you crash. There are also flags littered around and each has an arrow that shows the correct side you should ski past them; ski the wrong way and your character's speed will decrease. The only 'friendly' part of the scenery are moguls and if you run into one of these your skier jumps into the air. At this point you can press Down on the d-pad to perform some Freestyle tricks that add to your point total at the end of the race. The gameplay is extremely difficult, even in the easiest setting, and if you fail to reach the end of the course before time runs out you'll have to restart the entire event. There's also no way to practice individual courses to build up some muscle memory. The controls are overly twitchy so making precise movements is a problem. The time limit on some of the early courses is too strict and the CPU riders are overly aggressive to the point where you'll wish you had a Road Rash style punch button!

Slalom is a game that I thought I'd love but the difficulty is so unbalanced that it's frustrating rather than a fun challenge. The simple premise is excellent but it's poorly executed and once the CPU opponents join the party any brief enjoyment just flies out the window!

Random trivia: The game was originally released in 1986 for the Nintendo VS. System in the Arcades and one optional upgrade was a pair of skis that the player could stand on while playing!

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