It’s like skiing with your hands
Confession: I grew up in Utah, but I’ve never been skiing.
Shocking, I know — especially considering I was there for the 2002 Winter Olympics — but skiing has a fairly high barrier to entry in terms of equipment, time, patience, cold-adaptability, desire to move from comfy bed…
…you get the idea.
So when the chance to review a skiing game came up, I figured I had a shot at redemption — a chance to prove I could hang with the other cool — nay, ice cold — kids who’d spent winters wiping out at Nordic Valley or Snowbird.
Unfortunately, for various reasons, I couldn’t stick the landing — literally and figuratively — when it came to Ski Jumping Pro VR.
Developed by Yippee! Entertainment and published by Kalypso Media, Ski Jumping Pro VR is a VR port of the highly-rated 2013 mobile game, Ski Jumping Pro. Knowing that bit of background will help make sense of some of the controls and the mechanics as a whole; as one iOS player put it, the 2013 version consists of “simple tapping of the screen three times for each jump”. Obviously the tapping element doesn’t come into play during the VR portion, but the timing aspect does, as arm movements replace tapping — the core mechanics between mobile and VR versions ultimately ended up being incredibly similar.
Players can choose between a freeplay and career segment, both of which utilize the same core mechanics. The differences between the two are simple — one cares about who you are and your previous runs while the other doesn’t. I appreciated the ability to launch right into the gameplay in both versions; a storyline was not missed nor needed here.
After choosing between freeplay or career, skiiers are dropped off right on a hill set up for a competitive run. Different shots and angles of the slope are shown, and looking all around will show a cheering crowd, frosted trees, and a beautiful landscape. You can tell there was some care put into the scenery and that it wasn’t a mere afterthought, which is nice — and necessary — in terms of setting an overall atmosphere.
And just like that, players assume the position at the top of the slope. A timer begins, and players can choose to just get started or go through the tutorial. Wanting to learn the ropes, I hit the tutorial immediately; this is where I learned about my first unfortunate setback (that is in no way the game’s fault) — Ski Jumping Pro VR is not officially supported on Oculus systems. Don’t get me wrong, it ran on my Oculus Rift S, but the trigger button didn’t work, so I always launched late, meaning my score was always lower than it could have been.
Since the game’s Steam page indicates HTC Vive only, I really can’t fault Ski Jumping Pro VR for my controller’s incompatibility; I just tried to work around it and “‘git gud” when it came to the rest of the game…
…except, unfortunately… that kind of is the game. At least, it’s 20% of it.
You see, there are five moments of action in Ski Jumping Pro VR: launching, keeping balance pre-jump, jumping, keeping balance post-jump, and landing. Launching required trigger button input and landing was confusing as hell to get the hang of even with tutorial guidelines, so basically all I could do well initially was keeping balance (moving the controllers according to the on-screen indicators) and jumping (lifting my arms in the air).
That’s it. That’s the game.
At first, I was really puzzled by the game’s lack of immersion when it came to mechanics — I was definitely not sold on the notion that I was skiing — but reading that this is essentially a port of an otherwise successful mobile game pieced it all together. Ski Jumping Pro VR has less to do with immersion and more to do with timing, which is exactly what its predecessor excelled at. I could honestly only see this game being included as part of the Wii Sports Resort instead of a standalone title, let alone one charging $19.99 for it on top of needing pricey VR equipment.
Although it’s safe to say this isn’t the game that will move VR units (again, specifically HTC Vive units), I will say that I at least got the feeling of heights and cold through Ski Jumping Pro VR. Where I didn’t feel like I was skiing, I at least felt like I was there on the slopes. I wouldn’t have been all that surprised if I saw my breath as I exhaled; I half-expected to pull off my VR headset to feel the crisp tingle of cold on my cheeks. Where there wasn’t immersion on a sports level, it was at least there on an environmental level, so that’s mildly rad.
In Ski Jumping Pro VR’s defense, I am not sure how a VR game about ski jumping would otherwise play. I am not sure if I’ve played a game specifically about ski jumping and ski jumping alone before. Perhaps there’s a reason why it’s usually bundled in a game dedicated to winter sports. Perhaps this is as good as it will get. I am not sure.
What I am sure about is that, not only does this game not adequately work on an Oculus Rift S (as the devs have pointed out) but that, if I had paid $19.99 for a VR port of a mobile game that feels like it only had a graphics overhaul to it (albeit a very good graphics overhaul), I’d likely be pretty irritated.
Can I recommend Ski Jumping Pro VR?
Maybe not to the average VR player — the ones who have dropped hundreds of dollars on a peripheral — who want to experience something truly immersive. Instead, this is for the player who wants to find something for the entire family to casually enjoy in-between rounds of Beat Saber or who has played literally everything else available and just wants something new. Either way, get it on sale — or get it on mobile — as this one had me wishing I was sipping cocoa in the cabin instead of hitting the slopes.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PS4, PC (reviewed); Publisher: Kalypso Media; Developer: Yippee! Entertainment; Players: 1; Released: December 6, 2019; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Ski Jumping Pro VR given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.