Valcon Games certainly has a history covered in racing (and more vaguely, driving/riding) releases. Looking at its profile page
, and particularly at its PlayStation 2 catalog, you can see that it has released everything from Mountain Bike Adrenalin to Alfa Romeo and Corvette-based titles to RC Mini Chopper.
Its latest release is Ski-Doo Snowmobile Challenge, an ice-covered racer that has you skirting up and around mountain passes in a race to the finish line. The game is a solid title in terms of overall polish and quality, but it doesn't bring with it too much excitement. There's some to be found, sure, but in the day and age of games like DIRT, MotorStorm, Burnout and Pure, it feels lackluster in terms of its overall enjoyment level.
While Ski-Doo Snowmobile Challenge is a racing game first and foremost, stunts also play a large part in the overall setup. Boost can be earned by performing stunts in a race, though you can only use it when you fill the meter completely, and if you let up on the boost, you lose it entirely. I've never really liked this sort of system. It's fine when it's an option, such as how it works for a single class of cars in Burnout Paradise, but you're stuck with how it is here, unfortunately. The track design is a little too twisty to let you keep your foot on the boost for an extended period of time.
Outside of earning boost, you'll also find a handful of stunt events that you need to complete in the game. Once you get the hang of things, these events aren't overly difficult, though the actual stunt setup needed some work. Points rack up very slowly when you hold a trick, giving you little reason to do so - it's much
better to toss in a second trick if you have the time than hold the first one forever, and there aren't even multipliers.
Front-flips work fine for the most part, but back-flips are extremely problematic. As soon as you start flipping backwards, the camera shifts to the side to make it look more cinematic, but your analog stick is also based on the camera angle to a degree. So even if you're holding straight down (back), as soon as the camera starts moving to the side, your snowmobile begins twisting and turning and becomes very difficult to land. You can get by without this trick, obviously, but it's certainly odd that this issue was overlooked.
The career mode features a half-dozen or so events in each of a handful of countries. Each event has requirements for unlocking them, which are usually other races, so you'll do plenty of country-hopping. One very notable bit here is that I completed every event in the game in roughly eight hours. 100% complete, gold in every race, everything unlocked. I find this to be extremely odd for a racing game as they usually have so many events that only the extreme completionists will finish all of them. They're not meant to feel linear with a finite finish, whereas this did.
There is a reasonable online mode that works just as you'd expect with a basic lobby system, a small amount of options and so forth. It's relatively lag-free and if your competition is good, it can be fun. There's not really anyone playing online right now so you may want to make sure you have friends who pick it up if you've checked off the online feature as one of the reasons you want to pick it up.
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