Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: Oct 4, 2017 (Steam Early Access), Jan 23, 2019 (Switch)
Developer: Hugecalf Studios
Publisher: Curve Digital
Have you ever just wanted to get away? I mean, finally go on that vacation you richly deserve? I personally have found cruises to be the most relaxing for me, but everyone has their favorite spot. For some, it is a ski resort. My only warning would be, do not go wherever Hugecalf Studios decided to base When Ski Lifts Go Wrong on. That is not a detriment to the game when I say it, but the hilarity that ensues to your skiers may caution you to book your next trip up this woeful mountain.
When Ski Lifts Go Wrong is a puzzle game that is completely on point with it’s name. Often intelligent individuals will keep their skier safe on the first try, but mostly you fail and fail until you finally figure out the right piece to escort them safely to their destination. Set in the likes of Bridge Constructor Portal and the many builder app games that have released over the years, When Ski Lifts Go Wrong is a quirky puzzle game that does it just right. The physics of the game are absolutely insane and flinging skiers has never been so hilarious.
You have a suite of tools at your disposal to try and get your skier up the mountain. These planks, logs, and ropes are it, so you have to learn just what will hold as you craft towers along the route in order to not only lift them safely, but also get the medals placed in somewhat hard to get areas. These are totally optional, but the challenge of getting them without something breaking is well designed. Adding in money as an objective (staying under budget in your constructions) is another objective that adds to the mix, as well as drive those like me mad with trying to figure out just how to do it.
Your building materials are not your only tools however. One of my favorite ideas is showing the building piece in red that is breaking. This allows you to focus there on how to re-enforce or rebuild instead of simply clicking randomly or rebuilding your entire lift when only one plank may have to be readjusted. As you run your lift, the materials also show in green for good, yellow for strained, and red for “I’m about to fall apart”. A tension meter at the top also helps you figure out the moments that are straining your builds the most.
The multiple levels of difficulty are another thing that When Ski Lifts Go Wrong gets right. No level seem unachievable, but the medals placed in precarious places (like I mentioned before) make puzzlers pound their desks with every mistake. No one is happy with hard for the sake of hard (except maybe From Software), so intelligently designed levels are a must for a puzzle game, and Hugecalf Studios accomplishes this.
There are also a couple of other modes I did not expect. There are ski and snowmobile runs you also must construct, though not as intricately as the ski lifts. While these require a bit more skill in demo phase as you must control the avatar, they are a lot of fun, also adding in different medals for completionists. The summer area that adds bikes is also a treat to play, adding a bit of diversity even if the constructions more or less remain the same. There is also a sandbox mode to make your own creations entirely and a workshop where you can try other players creations.
All in all, this puzzle game is a complete experience through and through. I love puzzle games, and there is something to be said about a well done, complex one. When Ski Lifts Go Wrong will not only cater to someone wanting a simple puzzle game, but those wanting a larger and more customizable experience. I highly recommend When Ski Lifts Go Wrong. Just remember, little computer skiers are people too.