Skiing has just never really translated well into gaming - SkiFree notwithstanding, of course. But developer duo Mikengreg has eschewed realism in Solipskier, their arcadey stab at the slopes, attempting instead to capture both the excitement and tranquillity of skiing.
Solipskier is, admittedly, a difficult game to jump into, by iOS standards. This is deceiving, because the game has only one control - your finger. No shaking, no tilting, no multitouch. Just your finger, tracing a clean, snowy path across your screen. You only control the terrain, not the actual skiing, putting an interesting twist on normal sports-oriented gameplay. Where your finger goes, so goes the slope (and, indirectly, your skier). Trace a steep cliff and watch your intrepid character hoof it uphill with his poles - or treat him to a gentle downslope. Either way, you'll have to experiment a great deal with varying grades before you really figure out just how the hell to ski, in a game that is all about skiing.
This can be frustrating (at first). But whether intentional or not, Solipskier's learning curve forces you to dig in deep with the game's sensitive physics, and after falling to your death with a mis-drawn path a hundred times or so, you'll be more or less gliding around with ease. Solipskier makes the early frustration worth the time, with bold, tantalising points and multipliers, rewarding you for tricks executed by sending yourself flying off of daring ramps of your own design. Whether you want a series of gentle jumps or an insane, Olympic plummet is up to you. Nail gates, speed through tunnels, or wow the judges and the game's arcade inspiration shines with positive visual feedback.
The game's graphics pit colourful interface elements and a delightful rainbow velocity trail against a minimalist greyscale background. The result glues your eyes to the screen along with your finger and adds to the game's simple addictiveness - paint something pretty and watch it come to life. Although your deaths will be many, the game is a joy to navigate once frustration subsides and is a fine way to blow through a few minutes in need of passing. Solipskier is a $4 universal iOS release, with an Android version on the way. [iTunes]