For me, nothing tops the thrill of the Olympics. Men and women who have trained their whole lives to pit their wits against one another to see who will be crowned champion and win that gold medal. I look at a number of the sports and think, I’d love to give that a go, obviously I’d be rubbish at it, but God loves a trier. I certainly prefer the Winter Olympics to the Summer ones, mainly because I’m a big fan of snowboarding and skiing. I’ve seen first hand the fearless competitors who strap on their skis, and throw themselves down a ramp. The ski jumpers are absolutely nuts in my opinion, but I admire their determination. Soaring through the air, they remain as streamlined as possible and land with millimetre precision. There is absolutely no chance I would attempt this activity, that is, unless you hand me a controller, and I can take part in a virtual world. Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 allows you to feel the thrills, and excitement of the event, while playing from the safety of your own couch.
Published and developed by Blue Sunset Games, Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 has you take on the role of Andrew Sturk. This amateur athlete is determined to rise through the ranks, and take on the worlds best competitors in a rather short story campaign mode. You must participate in a number of lowly events where you are asked to jump down ramps of mud, across beaches, and eventually make it to the baby slopes. You will be scored on your overall performance, as well as your distance, so having a smooth and clean action could bag you plenty of points, and will easily push you to the top of the tables. You open the action with the opportunity to complete an extremely simple tutorial. You are told about the controls, how to jump from the ramp correctly, and how to land. I’m sure you’d pick up the basics through playing, but the tutorial is so short that you may as well complete it. Once you have got to grips with the basics you are free to take on the campaign, play either solo, or a tournament, customise your character, or play online against friends or strangers.
As the title suggests, you’d think that this was a serious in depth simulation of a rather dangerous sport, well it isn’t. It’s a self proclaimed old school pixel art title which simply focuses on the competition side of the event. You won’t find any character development, no skill tree, or perks are to be found. There is no team management for the nation you represent, and no league to compete against your biggest rivals and arch nemesis. Without these elements it all feels a little insignificant and hollow. Yes, it’s fun to hurl down a ramp, and the gameplay is oddly addictive. But once you’ve finished the game, and gotten over the feeling that you must try one more jump, then you find that there is nothing left, it’s all rather disappointing.
With several modes to choose from, it does take a little bit of time to feel fed up of the action. The campaign itself isn’t overly challenging, it flips between the 2 arcade experiences that the developers have created; classic and realistic. These are effectively a difficulty setting for the finer elements of the game, let me expand on that. During the tutorial I’ve already stated that you are advised on how to jump from the ramp, and land. Each of these actions has a sweet spot. If you hit the button at the right time you will launch off the runway with a pop, and land with a smooth glide, these motions increase your distance and improve your score with the judges. When playing in realistic mode the timing has to be more accurate, and the margin of error is massively reduced, so it is a heck of a lot harder to win an event. You will also find that the NPC difficulty ramps up from beginner to tough, there are 5 stages in all. This combined with the realistic mode makes the title quite a lot harder than it should be, and will frustrate an awful lot of players, myself included. I would have stopped playing if I wasn’t so stubborn and determined to beat the game.
So many Indie developers are pushing games out with pixel art as its style. For a number of titles this works really well, but for the majority it’s hard to shake the feeling that the action would be more suited to a mobile device, rather than a main console. This was the feeling I had with Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020, its basic style doesn’t stand out from the crowd. The animation of the character moving down the ramp is very stiff, and it wasn’t always easy to tell whether you were in the best position when flying through the air. Though there were a few unique looking stages, the moon being the stand out one, most of them looked the same, and this made everything feel very repetitive. The background aesthetics are reasonable enough, but just a bit dull. The Winter Olympics are all about life and energy, this certainly wasn’t conveyed in the crowds of people that were watching each event, it all felt a little lifeless. Ultimately, it’s not terrible to look at, it just scrapes through of what you would accept as OK, nothing more, and nothing less.
The audio unfortunately matches the graphical presentation in this title. It is equally uninspiring. These events are either warm ups for the greatest sporting occasion known to mankind, or the actual Olympics. It felt like the crowd were sitting in a library, and were not bothered. The lack of atmosphere was chilling, and goes back to my earlier comment of no in depth experience to this game. If the developers had considered rivalries and nationalities, then the crowd would be able to passionately cheer, or boo the competitors. None of these things happened, there isn’t even an announcer calling you to the start position. Simply a case of go, land, and receive a lukewarm round of applause, and the occasional horn. I genuinely think I was expecting a lot more, I probably should have set my expectations an awful lot lower.
The one thing that this title does do very well, is the simplistic control setup. Use A or RT to start, jump, and land. Use the left analogue stick to lean forward or pull back when in the air. This is it! It’s unbelievably easy to get to grips with, and this is where it works so well. As a player you feel that you can beat the game easily, but with the difficulty increasing slowly as you move through the competitions you need to ensure that you are perfecting the timing, otherwise you’ll find that you won’t be able to progress once you arrive at the realistic mode. Practice makes perfect, and even then, you’ll need an awful lot of luck on your side.
With any sports title the key is getting your fan base to want to keep playing. An in depth career, unusual game modes, a leaderboard for skill games, or trials to compete with other gamers and friends. Unfortunately, none of these things exist in Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020. I found I was lucky to be able to find someone to play online with. Once you have completed the main campaign you’re very unlikely to want to keep playing. A small achievement list will inspire the completionists to grind out a few more hours of gameplay, but ultimately you’re looking at around 5 to 8 hours of fun before this gets boring.
The simplistic approach on the audio and graphical presentation didn’t need to influence the main gameplay, but unfortunately it did. There is very little to do, and no real ability to play online with people, mainly because no one is playing the game. A sports title that could have been so much more. Hiding behind the label “Old School” shouldn’t give developers free reign to create an experience that is lacking substance and devoid of entertainment. Blue Sunset Games should have created this for mobile only, it’s a shame, with a few tweaks this could have worked really well. Players would have spent hours customising their character and levelling them up, if the developers allowed it. If you desire to be the next Eddie the Eagle, then maybe this one is for you, otherwise I’d suggest giving it a miss.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Ultimate Ski Jumping 2020 Review
Gameplay - 4/10
Graphics - 4/10
Sound - 4/10
Replay Value - 4/10
Can you go from amateur to Pro? Strap on some skis and fly through the air. The dream of winning the Olympics is just on the horizon.
- Easy achievement list.
- Controls are easy to learn, but tough to master.
- Difficulty modes ensure the game isn’t too easy.
- The graphics are below par.
- The audio fails to create an atmosphere.
- Very repetitive gameplay.
- It’s lacking any in depth experience.