When Ski Lifts Go Wrong is a physics puzzler about ski resorts

What could go wrong? With When Ski Lifts Go Wrong, you would be surprised.

At first glance, upon seeing Hugecalf StudiosWhen Ski Lifts Go Wrong, I thought it would be a game purely about creating ski lifts that can go across various types of terrain. That was true for the most part, and I thought to myself, ‘This is going to be a breeze, at least until later in the game.’ But I was naïve.

Directly after the tutorial, I already found myself trying over and over to get the structure right (and trying to get as few fatalities as possible…). That may be because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but it was still very enjoyable and made me think hard about how to solve the problems I have, whilst still being fun and not overly difficult.

The tutorial for When Ski Lifts Go Wrong is nice and clear, and quickly got me up to speed. But once over, it throws you right into the thick of it and gets you thinking of all the different ways to get through the level. Whilst getting past some of the first sets of levels isn’t so hard overall, it’s when you’re trying to be a completionist that it really starts to get you thinking. Each level has a set number of objectives that need completing: making sure that your ski lift structure is safe and stable enough when it’s used; spending under a certain amount on materials when crafting the lift; and also being able to create a layout that lets one of the skiers grab a medal floating somewhere on the course.

With these aspects in mind, it goes from being somewhat easy to a challenge, even from the very beginning. I found myself being able to satisfy two of the three objectives, but always lacking on one! It’s all about finding that perfect balance (sometimes literally finding balance when making structures!) and pulling it all off.

I found creating the structures to be the most challenging aspect, since I would often be try to create odd-looking structures to save money and ended up producing ski lifts you wouldn’t go on even if you were paid. Sadly for my little skiers, I ended up with a lot more being injured than making it to the slope — at least at first, anyway!

There are a lot of levels to get through, with each getting more problematic and intricate as you advance. Although the name of the game suggests that you’ll only be making (and breaking) ski lifts, that’s not entirely accurate. You also occasionally make ski ramps, which follow a similar process, yes, but it’s a different way of making sure your snowboarders and skiers make it across in one piece. For some levels you’re also able control the skiers or snowboarders, which means you can edit your course to take this into account, since having even that little bit of control over them can make the difference!

You’ll make ramps and chair lifts as well as those infamous ones that you sit on and put between your legs — the kind that you grab onto and within seconds lose your balance and fall (or at least the ones I used to fall off all the time when I was younger. I’m sure I’m not alone in this!). So generally, there is a lot of variety to the levels.

If you’re the type to rush through the levels, regardless of the cost of everything and its safety, you’ll move quickly. But there’s more than just the campaign to satisfy you and offer more replayability. In sandbox mode, you can shape the mountains into whatever shapes you want and create extremely hard slopes for others to download and share with others — although bear in mind this isn’t through the Steam Workshop and is done in game, instead.

When Ski Lifts Go Wrong is easy to pick up and play, but hard to master. It’s humorous, too, occasionally because one of your skiers will make it to the slope against the odds. For example, I had created a mediocre pair of towering structures for the ski lift. My skier had scraped past the first tower, which was showing stress on the construction. Just as they got past the second one, the tower gave way, breaking, but miraculously my skier was still able to swing onto the slope somehow, and I was through. Even though they were literally the only skier able to make it there…

If you’re a fan of engineering and physics, I don’t see how or why you wouldn’t enjoy When Ski Lifts Go Wrong. Whilst I’m not particularly gifted with the knowledge of what sort of structures hold up well under stress, there are bound to be people out there who this would appeal to. It’s a fun game that gets you thinking creatively and requires a lot of trial and error in many cases and offers us replayability by being able to create our own levels. This isn’t the style of game I would traditionally go for, and I haven’t really played any games I can think of that are like When Ski Lifts Go Wrong, but I have really enjoyed the unique challenges it offered. I don’t think I’ll be attempting to help create any real ski lifts — if I do, maybe take a beach holiday rather than a skiing one…

When Ski Lifts Go Wrong is available now for Nintendo Switch, PC and Mac.

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