Game Review: Slalom

Slalom Title Screen

  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Rare
  • Released: August 1987
  • Game Type: Sports
  • Players: 1 or 2 [Alt]
  • Product Number: NES-??-USA
  • Rarity: B- (Borderline Rare)
    Game Ratings:
    OVERALL: 8

    Box Scan
    Slalom Screen 1 Slalom Screen 2

    This early downhill skiing title may not seem like much, but it's pretty historical. Slalom was the first NES title developed by the future British gaming giant Rare. Right from the start Rare showed why they are one of the most reveared game developers in history, in this case taking a simple idea and making a simple yet fun game out of it.

    This game lets one or two players ski down one of three mountain peaks: Snowy Hill (the easiest), Steep Peak, or Mt. Nasty (the hardest). Each mountain has 8 runs, for a total of 24 courses. The object of each run is to reach the finish line before time runs out. As you ski down the hill you have to deal with other skiers who try to knock you out. In addition you have to watch out for other obstacles such as trees, snowmen, and sledder who just happen to be sledding in your way. Running into an obstacle will cause you to wipe out, and you lose several seconds getting back in the race. Many of the courses have flag gates you must ski through. If you miss a gate your skier will slow down, costing you several seconds as well. You'll also run into moguls (snow-covered rocks) that'll launch you into the air. While you're airborne you can pull off a quick trick for some bonus points. If you make it to the end of the run your points are totaled and you head off to the next run. But if time runs out the game ends. This game features a two player mode but has both players taking turns on each level.

    Graphics & Sounds:
    The graphics are simple but good. There's some nice mountains in the background, and the other sprites look great as well with some nice touches. The animation and scaling are pretty smooth. Your skier, however, looks a bit odd from the rear, especially when he skis in the "headlong" position. However the downside of the graphics is all the levels look the same, plus you don't really get the sense of going downhill. If anything it seems like you're racing straight ahead. There's not much to the sounds either. The background music is good during the main racing scenes, but the other tunes that play get annoying after a while. The sound effects are kept to a bare minimum and are just there, nothing more. Some variation in the graphics and music would have helped.

    The controls work fairly well. The directional pad is pretty responsive, enabling you to pull off some fast moves around obstacles. However to do a trick off a mogul requires you to push Down on the control pad, which also slows you down on the ground. If you do it too early you may lose some speed before your jump, but it's not too bad so don't sweat it too much.

    Challenge & Playability:
    Slalom is pretty easy to pick up and play, yet still has a decent challenge level. Each mountain starts off easy but the later runs get difficult fast. It's not too terrible; you can get through with enough practice and memorization. The one frustrating thing is you do not get continues. When you lose your game ends and you have the start from the very beginning. But despite this the simplicity of the game makes it easy for anyone to get into and it's pretty addictive. It's also never the same run twice. The obstacles don't change but the enemy skiers do; sometimes you'll practically have the moutain to yourself, while other times you will be mobbed. While the two-player mode is fun, it would have been nice to race another player head-to-head.

    Even with its okay graphics and sub-par sounds, Slalom still manages to be a great early title. With its fun and challenging gameplay Slalom is one of those games that's easy to just pick up and start playing every now and again. Rare certainly got its legacy off on the right foot with this overlooked gem.

    - Review posted on January 9, 2006