7.9

Mobile Game of the Week: Ski Safari (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: Ski Safari (iOS)

Ski Safari


Platform: iOS
Developer: Defiant Development
Release Date: 04/26/2012
Price: $.99

Ski Safari feels a bit like an mobile “greatest hits” anthology rolled into a single game. There are many similarities to Jetpack Joyride, from the perpetual motion, to the various bonus objectives that activate three at a time, to the distance-based goal. There’s also a bit of Tiny Wings, with your high velocity and the hilly terrain combining to rocket your skier through the sky, with distance and height maximized through judicious screen touches. And of course there are obvious Solipskier parallels.

These are observations, not grievances. Ski Safari might be a videogame Frankenstein, but who cares if all the parts stick together well? You might see the seams but Ski Safari never collapses into a jumbled, twitching mass of constituent parts. It knows what to steal from where and how best to combine it all into a thoroughly effective package. In other words it’s like all successful works in basically every medium known to man.

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Ski Safari is about as simple as that sounds. Your character tries to outski a deadly avalanche that’s nipping at his alpines. He moves on his own and only stops if he hits a rock or other obstruction. You tap the screen repeatedly to revive him. You also touch the screen to make him jump, and hold a finger down to do backflips off ramps and the edges of particularly sloped hills. Coins boost your score and your speed. Such unlockable animals as penguins and yetis can be ridden like the special vehicles in Joyride, both increasing your speed and jump distances and acting as single-hit shields from the rocks and stalactites that would otherwise knock you off your skis. At all times you have three bonus goals to meet, including such objectives as riding three penguins in a single race or performing a double backflip. Each goal nets you a star when accomplished, and three stars level you up and unlock new perks. The end only comes when your skier finally relents to the column of snow and ice that constantly rumbles forth from the left of the screen.

Ski Safari knows exactly how to succeed as a mobile game. It’s amazingly simple, with basic, clear-cut goals and a constant reward cycle that urges you to continue playing. A session can last as brief as thirty seconds but still provide as much fun and entertainment as an extended spurt of Skyrim. The leaderboard mentality will keep you playing long after a responsible person would put the phone or tablet down. It doesn’t break any ground, but it never feels you’re retracing your steps. It’s basically what a mobile game should be.