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Val d'Isere Skiing & Snowboarding - The Atari Times

Val d'Isere Skiing & Snowboarding

Hit the slopes in this downhill Jaguar racer
by Adrian Mroczko

February 23, 2001
I've seen several reviews for Val d'Isere Skiing & Snowboarding (S&S) and each one has praised the game for its visuals and fast gameplay. With this in mind, I bought the game figuring it would be a good addition to my small but increasing Jag game library. This game is by Virtual Studios, the same team behind the awesome Super Burnout, and a game that I enjoyed prior to purchasing Val d'Isere S&S.Are the games similar? The answer is yes, however, Val d'Isere S&S doesn't live up to the quality standards set by the stellar Super Burnout.

The game has many flaws. While the graphics are nice (especially the digitized mountain background) with a fast frame rate, I found it far too easy to lose sense of where the track was during a race. What am I talking about? The track is composed of many sprites, such as trees, pointy ice spikes, bushes, etc. The trouble is, sometimes these elements just aren't spaced as tightly as they should be causing small gaps to appear. Add to the fact that the whole track (including the out of bound areas) is totally white in color, it can be difficult to tell where the in-game track and out of bound areas begin. Super Burnout uses a similar engine and track design scheme, except that the track in SB is easily distinguished from the out of bounds since its pavement.

I also have a problem with the exaggerated roller coaster hill effect. This is most noticeable during the slalom levels where the game tries to simulate a bumpy course by throwing in sudden, extreme dips and rises in the course which is very annoying and disorienting especially when you get six of these in a row. My advice to gamers with weak stomachs is to avoid this game - you'll easily get sick from this special effect. I personally have been snowboarding for years and I have yet to tackle a trail that resembles a roller coaster track. It's understandable that the programmers tried to make the game harder and more arcade-like with this effect, but you'll soon find yourself missing slalom markers that you couldn't see until the last second or colliding with some of course elements.

The sounds are nothing to write home about. The soundtrack consists of several generic rock tracks. The sounds are repetitive with some decent voice thrown in for good measure.

Play control is good enough for a novice to get into the game quickly, but it does seem a little unresponsive for the advanced levels where you need sharp turns and expert control of your speed in order to avoid missing slalom markers. Every slalom flag you miss adds one second to your total course time, so hitting as many of these is crucial. Nothing is worse than setting a record time on a course only to miss the end of course goal marker, which disqualifies your run!

You can choose between skiing or snowboarding. This is okay for variety's sake, but I found little difference between the two styles. The jump feature, which you can use to hop over course elements, is really exaggerated. Your player can seemingly leap 6 feet in the air. It comes in handy on a crowded course, but you'll soon find yourself missing slalom flags and relegating the jump feature only for emergencies or icy areas.

S&S is fun and tolerable for short gaming sessions, but this is not one of those titles I'll pull out to play often (like Tempest 2000),The game lacks lasting appeal. I got this game for $12.99 and if I had to ask myself if this was worth the money, without a doubt I'd say yes. I've gotten more gameplay out of this title than some of my recent Mac and Dreamcast game purchases. Unfortunately, it fails to live up to the standards set by some of my other Jaguar games, namely Tempest 2000, Defender 2000 and Iron Soldier.

I'm sure the Val d'Isere resort never looked so good as to have 'Jaguar' logos everywhere!
Is this snowboarding or waterboarding?
As if you weren't high enough in the mountains already.
This skier looks rather disappointed. Wake up!
Val d'Isere Skiing & Snowboarding
System: Jaguar
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Sports
Graphics Score: 75%
Sound & Music Score: 81%
Gameplay Score: 69%
Control Score: %

Final Score: 72%

Reader Comments for Val d'Isere Skiing & Snowboarding

Val d'Isere Skiing and Sn by Bruce Clarke on 2006-10-22 19:17:01
The Atari Jaguar has several racing games available: among them are Atari Karts, Power Drive Rally, Super Burnout, and of course the infamous Checkered Flag. But I would argue that the best racing game, and one of my favorite games for the Jaguar, is one that might surprise you: Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding. Yes, it may be on a ski slope instead of a racetrack, but VSS is a racing game. The French developers, Virtual Studios, ported this game over from a Super Nintendo game called Tommy Moes: Winter Extreme. Although the games have a similar look and feel, the Jaguar version has some slight improvements in music, menus, and options. You choose either a snowboard or a pair of skis to run down the slopes of the famous French ski resort Val d'Isere. You can practice, or race in both downhill speed and slalom. To make sure you stay on the track - I mean slope - the path is lined on both sides with obstacles such as snowplows, trees, and your fellow snow enthusiasts. At a time when programmers were struggling to make flashy 3D polygon games work on the Jaguar, Virtual Studios wisely built a graphics engine that makes good use of large, colourful 2D sprites. Similarly to Super Burnout, the graphics are smooth and fast. VSS may not use 3D polygons, but it looks damn good for an early 90s game. One of my favorite aspects of VSS is its "roller coaster" effect: the graphics engine plunges your viewpoint up and down over a rapidly undulating ski slope. The effect really looks great; you can almost feel yourself getting motion sick! The music in the game is both funky and catchy; unlike most games I'm happy to keep the background music on. And I found the controls to be tight and responsive. But of course not everything is perfect. The sprites, while beautiful and well-made, are very repetitive. What, there's only one type of snow-covered pine tree on the entire mountain? And why do all the other skiers seem to have only about three different outfits? One thing that really irks me about VSS is the repeated display of the Virtual Studios logo. It's shown before the start of every race or practice, before every menu, and after every race. Alright already - we learned who made the game the first time! Overall, VSS is one of my favorites. It's a great game when you come home tired from work and just want to flop on the sofa and play something a little bit mindless and relaxing, rather than the high-strung energy of T2K or the tenseness of AvP. It's not in my top five Jaguar games, but I do believe it's somewhere in my personal top 10. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 5 being your average mediocre game, I give VSS a 7.5.
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