Snowtopia — Management… on ice!

Tea for Two Games’ Snowtopia takes the management genre to a whole new, frosty locale.

I really enjoy management games — more so when they’re visually appealing and draw your eye to them. Not all management games do this, however, and I’m not knocking them, but some are heavily stat-based and complex. Snowtopia is still very much in its early alpha stages, and presently there isn’t an awful lot to do. Despite that, what the developers are cooking up at Tea for Two is promising and very likely to only improve over time.

Since I went on a lot of ski trips when I was younger, the idea of a skiing-related management sim instantly struck a chord. I was eager to find out what it was like and discover its potential, since I can’t think of a management sim that had decided to take this snowy route before.

It’s still very early days for Snowtopia. It’s in the alpha stage presently, and to be honest, there isn’t a lot to offer in its current state. That’s not to say there isn’t anything to do, but don’t hold your breath for a lot of content right now.

Snowtopia opens up into a huge map with lots of snowy mountains, showing us a skiing village to can be built around and a main ski lodge where skiers begin to appear once you start constructing gondolas and smaller ski lifts. It’s fairly straightforward to place a lift, then drag it to wherever you want (within reason) across the map, to various different heights. This helps to  create either a monster course or a quick little fun one.

Once you’ve placed the means of getting to where the ski course starts, there’s the matter of creating the course itself. This part I particularly like, since you drag and click the various different bends and turns for the course, which are highlighted in different colours to indicate how difficult that slope will most likely be. Black is the most difficult, going down to red, blue, green and white, as the easiest. The overall difficulty for a slope depends on what colour ends up as a majority.

Once you start off in the alpha, you are given a beginners’ guide with some of the basic controls, plus a small objective list to complete, one of which is attracting 50 skiers, then 150. Once little skiers start appearing and going on various slopes, a small list regarding skier satisfaction appears in the bottom-left corner., It shows how satisfied the different groups of skiers are — for example, if you don’t have some really gnarly slopes, how do you hope to please daredevils? You need to make sure you create a nice variety of differing slopes to accommodate for all your patrons’ needs. The satisfaction shows up as percentages for overall happiness, but you need to make sure you’re adding more slopes of different types to keep all these groups happy.

I discovered very early on that I had an imbalance with the happiness of my skiers and I needed to create some easier slopes, but quickly found myself running out of space to build more slopes around the resort. Upon zooming out to have a look at the map, I found that there were two more ski lodges I could build from, so I quickly took advantage and boosted all my stats.

There is still a long way to go for Snowtopia, but from what I’ve already experienced of the alpha, it’s already on a good path. I feel as though it’s got good bones at this point, and that it’s somewhat obvious where they plan to go next. That’s just speculation, but being able to see on the bottom construction bar that there’s an option for alternative buildings as well as an option for adding or removing foliage implies that we will get more customisation eventually.

Personally, I think it would be nice to see the money aspect of the game come into play. I’ve no doubt that it will at some point, but seeing this element appear in Snowtopia would bring in difficulty and more of the management we crave. Managing our money, trying to create lots of slopes and keep out of debt would be fun. If we had the option to create other buildings to could bring in more income, the game would only get more interesting from there onwards.

Since it’s clear that we will eventually get a lot more customisation options in terms of buildings, slopes and transport for skiers, I won’t waffle on about it too much. What I would enjoy seeing more is maybe a little increase in the quality of the skiers themselves, as they never change position overall, but the movements for how they come down the slopes is already there. This is me just being nit-picky, but it would help to create a more visually appealing environment for the player, and make the world feel a bit more living and vibrant. Being able to see people walk out of the nice little lodges that surround the slopes on their way to ski would be a nice touch, as they just appear out of thin air at the moment.

For a game in its very early alpha stages, I’m already very impressed and intrigued to see it grow and bulk out more. I feel like it’s got a good foundation for a management sim, with a new dynamic that I can’t find anyone else having done previously. The animations may need a little work at the moment, but I have no doubts we’ll see improvements over time, and everything else will most likely improve with it. I’ve already signed up for regular updates, as this is a game I will definitely want to throw my money at once it’s ready for release. They’re cooking up a good idea down at Tea for Two studios, and I look forward to seeing it progress.

Snowtopia is currently available as a demo for PC, Mac and Linux over on itch.io.

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