We live in a world filled with genius indie games that regularly outpace triple A studios in terms of charm, innovation and design. As the top of the industry seems to slowly coagulate into a homogenised blob of semi-open world games populated with endless to-do lists and blockbuster setpieces, the indie scene is thriving, diversifying, pushing back against the stagnation with little ideas that make a huge impact. Ski Sniper is not one of those games. In fact, I don’t even really understand what Ski Sniper is supposed to be.
It feels like a leftover from the Newgrounds days – edgy teens just about getting the hang of Flash and coding, delivering oddly specific bouts of violence to random things. The target of this game’s ire, for some reason, is the pursuit of skiing. You have a sniper rifle, and you’ve decided to camp out at the bottom of various ski slopes to pick those cocky wintersports enthusiasts off one by one, because… shit, I don’t know. Maybe the real game is inventing elaborate backstories to justify your rampage. “Ooh, that skiier pushed in front of me once at Tesco, he deserves a high calibre round to the nuts.”
I wouldn’t be nearly so critical of this game if it actually played well – if the central hook was absurd and detached but the shooting was somewhat competent and rewarding, I’d probably have a little bit more time for it. Even the very first level is an exercise in frustration akin to trying to coax someone out of your basement with a biscuit after you’ve repeatedly tazed them in the face every time they’ve fallen for it in the past. To be absolutely fair, I played Ski Sniper on Switch, which isn’t the best way to play anything that isn’t either made by Nintendo or a charming 2D RPG lite.
In fact, a cursory look over the game’s Steam page reveals that my opinion is very much in the minority here – lots of people think this game is really great, and I applaud their ability to find entertainment in Ski Sniper, which bored the frozen pants off me in the space of about five minutes. There’s extra weapons you can unlock to continue your reign of terror against the notoriously violent sport of skiing, including a crossbow which the game seems especially pleased about, but they could have let me charge up the ski slope dressed as the Queen waving a double ended lightsaber about and it wouldn’t have summoned anything more than a chuckle.
“Have you ever wondered how difficult is to shoot a ski jumper on the fly with a sniper rifle? :)” Ski Sniper‘s description cheekily asks, knowing full well that probably 3% of the global population have ever experienced the combination of circumstances which would have inspired that thought. Why, yes, Ski Sniper, I have, around the same time I wondered if I could fit an entire wheel of cheese into a raccoon’s arsehole. Maybe I’m being too harsh, this was clearly developed as an amusing little toy – it’s not out to change the world, just offer some mildly violent distraction, and we can’t exactly hold all forms of entertainment to the same standard.
Even so, I would really hesitate to recommend Ski Sniper on Switch even to somebody looking for mildly violent distraction, just because we’re inundated with amusing little toys like this every day. If Ski Sniper‘s Switch version was a toy, it’d be the armless Action Man at the bottom of the wardrobe, and you’d only get it out when you needed something slightly more interesting to beat yourself around the head with.