This game honestly came out of nowhere. I’m really surprised we don’t hear more about this game, not because it’s THAT GREAT, but because it’s RARE’s first game, an early addition to the NES third party, and a fun/tight controlled game that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. After playing so many Nintendo made sports games during the launch of the system in 1985, it was refreshing to see a different team (Western too!) give a crack at the sports genre. The difference of course was that Nintendo tried their hardest to simulate the sport, while Rare focused on what’s fun about it. Yes, the graphics haven’t aged well and those butts are GIGANTIC, but I can still control my skier with ease and the fake “mode-7” style winds up working to great effect on the often limited power of the NES. You might never finish Mt. Nasty, but you’ll certainly have fun working your way up to it.
In many ways Slalom reminds me of Mach Rider except I don’t get to shoot things (maybe that’s why I didn’t vote for it to be on our essential games list). The reason for this is because they both make the action/reaction experience of never knowing what is coming ahead into a fun mini game. Really that’s what the game is after all. There isn’t enough here to warrant spending a large amount of time on it. Instead, we get a fun time waster no different than Balloon Fight that you can keep coming back to between bigger games.
Slalom is what you get when you take Mach Rider, take out the shooting mechanics, post-apocalyptic setting, and any sense of personality. Then you add a jumping mechanic. Paint it white, and voila! You've successfully developed Slalom!
Slalom isn't a bad game, I just personally didn't find it all that engaging. I felt a tension in Mach Rider that just didn't seem to exist in this skiing simulator. Part of it is that your interaction with the world stops with your directional navigation of the space. In Mach Rider, not only were you trying to go fast, you were also trying to run your enemies off the road with your weapons and your vehicle, all while changing gears. That said though, the similarities in the core mechanics between these two games; and in turn, my very differing opinions on them; really speak to how much the atmosphere and flavor of a game can change our perception of a given title.
I'm still sort of befuddled by how this made our Essential Games list. I'll be gunning for it at our next audit.
It’s hard to not have fun while playing Slalom. It simply feels good to control. While it plays like Mach Rider, Slalom nails the feeling of going down hill and the momentum that comes with it. Overall it is a pretty simple experience, in a good way. You’re skiing, plain and simple. It’s easy to pick up and play, but also a game that you can keep coming back to until you master each course. I found myself leaning forward in my seat while approaching the end of a run… that’s how you know a game has drawn you in.