reviews\ Jan 29, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Winter Sports 2: The Next Challenge - WII - Review

I slammed into the walls lining the side of the course. I collided with three consecutive flags before steadying myself long enough to split the next set and, as sure as snow in January, crashed into the last two.

At one point, I found myself airborne, soaring toward the forest and, if not for the game placing me back on the slope, certain tree-induced death.

Clearly, the mountain had my number today.

To add insult to my injuries would be unnecessary, but that didn’t stop the announcers from hurling them at me like frozen snowballs as I stumbled by the finish line, a broken man shamed by my own tragedy.

“The race seems to be over before it started,” said one commentator, his words dripping with a condescending tang made only more bumptious by his British accent. “You can’t be satisfied with that score.”

Not to be outdone in pure obnoxiousness, his broadcasting buddy chimed in with a laugh, “Not unless you’re out to make a fool of yourself.”

Their cold words stung almost as much as playing this game.

Published on Wii by the people who brought you Ninjabread Man and Counter Force, Winter Sports 2: The Next Challenge is a sequel to 2007’s Winter Sports: The Ultimate Challenge. It seems to me an “ultimate” challenge would supersede all others, but semantic continuity is really the least of this game’s problems.

Winter Sports 2 is a collection of 10 winter sports, essentially conceived as a snowy alternative to the packed-in sensation Wii Sports. Players can choose to compete in single events, most of which last less than a minute or so, or string them together for groups of several.

Included are 18 variations of half-pipe snowboarding, Alpine skiing, ski jumping, speed skating, biathlon, bobsleigh, luge, skeleton, figure skating and curling. Like any of the countless mini-game collections on Wii, Winter Sports 2 hinges on the enjoyability of its individual mini-games.

Unfortunately, that is where the game falters most.

Most of these games just aren’t any fun to play due to poor gameplay and a reliance on nonsensical motion control. Expect plentiful controller waggling and, worse yet, strange motion implementation with arbitrary prompts applied at random intervals and with little regard for logic.

Winter Sports 2: The Next Challenge Screenshot

The figure skating game, for example, is simply a rhythm game in which you shake the controllers in the indicated direction to perform the routine. It’s the same as the dancing mini-game in the first Rayman Raving Rabbids game, only less responsive and not as much fun to play.

Why am I waggling to figure skate? I don’t remember Michelle Kwan swatting at flies while she executed a change-of-edge spiral.

Even when the controls make sense, the events are hindered by average-at-best motion detection. The lack of precision makes it easy to overcompensate, and if you’re at all like me, you’ll eat lots of snow.

Winter Sports 2 supports the Wii Balance Board, which adds a bit more enjoyability to the overall package. Some events benefit from the peripheral because it allows better control, and as a result, they’re much more fun to play. Others, however, are actually less responsive on foot. 

The game doesn’t fare well visually, either. We expect antiquated graphics from third-party Wii games, but Winter Sports 2 would look passé even if it were on GameCube. It’s a mixture of a bland art style and last-generation graphics, wrapped in dull colors and blurry textures.

It’s not much of an aural treat, either. The announcers, though often mean-spirited, are voiced well, but the music is very generic and forgettable.

Winter Sports 2: The Next Challenge Screenshot

It’s a shame Winter Sports 2 isn’t a better package. It seems to use Wii Sports as a template, but it misses what made Nintendo’s groundbreaking pack-in so special. Wii Sports oozes charm, and it uses simple, intuitive motion controls that are still some of the system’s best.

Unfortunately, Winter Sports 2 has none of the above.

The novelty of motion control has worn thin. Gone are the days when a middling game could pass on Wii simply because it had you gamboling through your living room like a five-year-old on a sugar rush.

I’m looking for more on Wii. On the other hand, the success of the first Winter Sports game speaks volumes about what the Wii market is looking for, which is more important than any criticism a critic could levy -- that a sequel simply exists is testament to the demand for one. 

Fans of the first will probably love this sequel, but don’t ask me why. 

Review Scoring Details for Winter Sports 2: The Next Challenge

Gameplay: 4.5
Some events control better than others, but that’s not saying much.

Graphics: 3.0
I learn through experience, so I’ve set very low expectations for the graphics of third-party Wii games. I obviously didn’t go low enough.

Sound: 5.0
The nerve-grating sound of scraping ice has nothing on the game’s main theme, which is one of the most irritating menu songs of all time.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
There are multiple difficulty levels, but poor controls make even the easiest mode much more frustrating and challenging than it should be.

Concept: 5.5
Business-wise, the Winter Sports series makes sense, capitalizing on the success of Wii Sports by pretending to be a winter version.

Multiplayer: 6.0
It’s better with friends, but so is a lecture in trigonometry class.

Overall: 4.0
If you’re looking for another Wii Sports, stop. You won’t find it, and it certainly won’t be under the guise of a Winter Sports title. As much fun as tumbling down a ski slope, this snowy sequel epitomizes Wii mediocrity.

Below Average

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