Other than being forced to take part in a bit of skiing as an event in numerous Olympic experiences over the years, my last foray into the virtual skiing world would have been way back when, with the unmistakable Horace Goes Skiing on the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. Yep, it’s been a few years, but just like riding a bike you never forget, and so when Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 launched on Xbox One it was an intriguing enough affair to get me interested. I kind of wished I hadn’t bothered though. In fact, I think I’d have been best off sticking with old Horace.
As the title suggests, Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 sees you placed onto the slopes in the hope that you can help one Andrew Sturck achieve his goal of becoming ski jump world champion. Starting from humble beginnings, the main campaign takes you and Andrew off on a little adventure from a small homemade slope built by your friends to going around the globe, taking part in some of the biggest ski jumping competitions the world over.
With the likes of Poland, Finland, Sweden, Austria, France and more providing ski jumps of differing lengths, it’ll be up to you to help Sturck achieve his dreams.
And how you go about that is utter simplicity itself. I mean, Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 can be completed in its entirety with the simple press of the A button, albeit with a whole ton of luck thrown in for good measure.
No matter whether you are playing through the campaign, or involving yourself in the solo or competition modes that are available, everything within this ski jumping experience works as you would expect. Found at the top of a ski slope, as the lights turn to green and the wind swings in your favour, a press of the A button will send your skier slamming down the slope ahead. Hitting A again at the optimum point near the end of the slope sees him flying through the air, before a third press just before landing ensures he nails the landing safely.
Doing so will have you rewarded with a distance score, and a style score from five international judges, with you crossing your fingers that it is enough to take down the competition or to set a personal best. String together a couple of decently scored attempts and you’ll move on to the next slope.
Yep, things are that simple in Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020. However, in order to get the maximum from each jump you’ll also need to utilise your left thumbstick, making your skier more aero as he sails through the skies. This then allows for bigger, longer, more stylish jumps with an increase in score following that.
If you wish to get really fancy you can swap out the ‘classic’ skiing style for a more ‘realistic’ option. All this means though is that instead of hitting that A button, you have two buttons to tap instead – either the A and B or both bumpers at the same time, which then provide action to both legs. It’s hardly a revolution in how Ultimate Ski Jumping plays out, but at least the option is there for those who are looking for a little extra.
The campaign in Ultimate Ski Jumping can easily be completed in 20 minutes or so, but those who do find they need a bigger fix can then mess around with the solo or tournament modes, which allow you to play on jumps of your choosing. The problem is, you won’t want to do this, as it not just looks diabolical but sounds worse. Going back to Horace, and if his skiing adventures on the ZX Spectrum were delivered in this modern day, it would be pushing Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 in terms of visuals. And even though I’ve not really the memory to pinpoint its exact sounds, I’d think it wouldn’t be far off that either. By all means there is a place for retro gaming in this industry which is run by multi-million dollar companies, but this one really is taking it to an all new, low, level. It’s strange to see such a simple art style too as your main character is fairly well-represented – it’s just everything else is so low on quality it’s laughable.
So it’s safe to say that Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 does little to really enthuse, and even the most hardcore ski jumping fan will struggle to find much proper enjoyment. But hey, I haven’t mentioned the online mode yet. “What’s that you say? An online mode? In such a small throwaway indie title?”. That is indeed correct and Blue Sunset Games have pulled out all the stops here, delivering an online mode that lets you jump against your mates across the online world, with the chance to set up a tournament across a number of jumps should you so wish. And you know what? It’s utterly dead of competitors. I mean, if I hadn’t been able to coerce a colleague in to test this online option out, then I’d still be sitting there now waiting for someone to match up to my game. In a world that revels on the online scene it’s great to see that Blue Sunset have taken the time to include this option, but seriously, I have to wonder why they have bothered, as all you do is join a room with another competitor, make your jumps as normal and then checkout the end-of-stage leaderboard to see where you placed. At no point do you get to see your competition jumping, and so there is even less enthusiasm to take part. Instead, it may well have been worth their time to focus on making the standard game look, sound and play better, or even for them to spend time providing some kind of additional variety to the jumps aside from making some slightly longer than others and just sticking in a variety of generic backgrounds.
A further fun little addition is the option to kit your skier out in a number of different outfits, with the amendment of their helmet, top, trousers, gloves and skis. This comes about via the in-game cash that you are awarded on completion of an event. Again though, it’s all a little pointless and navigation through the shop menu is slow and cumbersome.
Working an old-school pixelated visual look, a sound scheme that would have been thought of as poor back in 1982, and a career which is over in minutes, there isn’t a thing about Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 on Xbox One that will have you appreciating the purchase you have taken in. It may well be the best ski jumping game available on Xbox One, but in a group of one, it’s also the worst.