Take to the slopes in our review of Ski Region Simulator

Management and simulation are two genres that go hand in hand, but when vehicular simulators are involved you never really get a true merger of the two. In comes GIANTS Software to give us Ski Region Simulator where the goal is not too dissimilar to Farming Simulator, except there is a lot more money riding on your resort, and far more management intricacies. Welcome to Stutzmatt, we hope you enjoy your stay.

Knit up in this neat little management game is a very particular vehicular simulator that allows players to control a variety of machinery including snow caterpillars, snow cannon’s, snowmobiles, salt spreaders, even skid steers, tractors and a wheel loader sneaks in. The game also features a selection of licensed machinery from PistenBully, Deutz and Lizard, as usual the vehicles are all beautifully modelled, and the rest of the game leaves a little to be desired.

Your best friend is your PistenBully 100, a Snow Caterpillar that will allow you to groom your slopes and plough unwanted snow, if you want your slopes to be the most successful on the resort your PistenBully will become your right hand, and as the slopes in your possession multiply you’ll be able to stay on top of your game by acquiring the latest model at the vehicle dealer. Of course if you are here to manage a resort and not drive around in ‘trucks’ then you’ve always the option to hire assistants to groom your slopes for you; they come at a high price of course.

Good luck grooming your slopes with no snow though! You may be in the Swiss Alps but it doesn’t snow every day, and if your slopes lay bare for too long, gravel will start to show, and your guests will not be impressed. Snowblowers or snow cannons are the most effective method of acquiring snow when the skies are looking a bit dry, and whilst a snow cannon is expensive, on a ski resort they’re worth their weight in gold; just don’t expect an easy job, unless you are blowing $200,000 on one of course.

Whilst you can keep your meagre ‘Buhl’ station and Slope 8 for newbie skiers, it definitely will not earn you a living, and getting by in the chilled out world of resort-life you’ll want to expand your enterprise by buying larger stations that will give you access to a variety of slopes, facilities and the possible income of hundreds of thousands when you venture out into the real estate market and purchase one or two hotels.

To best compare Ski Region Simulator to a management game would be to pick one of the greats; Ski Region is a lot like Theme Park, your ticket prices depend on the variety in your resort and you will be recommended to raise them as you expand. Each station can hold a number of facilities such as souvenir shops, fast food stalls, discos, ski rental stores, information booths, drugstores the list is pretty long. These facilities are your main source of income outside of ticket sales, however if you decide to charge high prices particular target groups will be turned away, and if you do not provide the services that families require then they will just go somewhere else. The game is a true balancing act and it's the guests' happiness that lies on the scales.

Even the simplest of simulators-cum-management games will tell you that it doesn’t matter how much you own or make; everything boils down to the happiness of your guests. On your resort you’ll find five target groups; youths, singles, families, young seniors and couples, each group will appreciate certain facilities and are more willing to purchase some things than others. For instance, youths are less willing to part with money and would much prefer eating fast food and going to the cinema at your station, whereas young seniors have deep pockets and prefer a bit more rest and relaxation, catering your stations to your guests is key to happy guests, and happy guests mean increased popularity, which further means more guests, it’s a long cycle.

Your resort is only operational during 7:00am to 10:00pm when you will make money from your ticket sales, facilities and hotels, and each day you’ll pay maintenance on every building and vehicle that you own, this is the best mechanic of the game that means that it isn’t good enough just breaking even at the end of sales, you’ll need to make profit on a day or you may see losses being made after the clock strikes 10. Although you won’t find many losses on easy mode, Ski Region has a choice of three difficulty levels that allows you to have a particularly cut-throat management game on your hands.

No management game is complete without time manipulation, and thankfully Ski Region Simulator takes from the books of Farming Simulator and allows you to take things slow in Real Time, to as far as 240x so whether you want to spend your sweet time grooming your slopes before the punters turn up, or watch the time slip through your fingers as you make mountains of cash from your guests, the choice is yours!

One nice feature to the game is the inclusion of missions that add a few anecdotes into the simulator, missions are the true reason for needing a snowmobile, and they'll see you rescuing guests from your slopes and transporting items from one section of the resort to the other. Whilst the missions make a great little feature and can give you something to do whilst you wait for snowfall, they actually negate the need to manage the resort, and the money is just too good you can do missions all day and make millions!

Ski Region Simulator is made entirely of resort management, which can mean that after owning all 21 slopes and grooming them daily you may get a bit sick of Stutzmatt, but this is a GIANTS Software simulator, which means modding galore, although you might not find as many creators making maps for Ski Resorts; why not try yourself?

Or you could spice up your resort by inviting a few friends over to help out, yes Ski Region Simulator also includes the fantastic multiplayer setup of Farming Simulator, allowing you to work on the resort with your mogul pals, exchange money and have a chat as you groom the slopes, ride the cable cars and tend to missions.

Fans of Farming Simulator will expect some hidden extras like the bottles dotted around your island; no you’re not finding snowmen, instead your resort is littered with gnomes, find all 100 gnomes and unfortunately you won’t get a discount at the vehicle dealer, but you will get an achievement. That’s right, Ski Region Simulator has a selection of achievements to award the most discerning resort baron for smashing icicles, earning money, owning all of the stations, driving a certain number of miles, and best of all; paying off your debt!

Ski Region Simulator is a brilliant example of simulators branching out into the wide void that is the ‘other’ genres, and whilst management games and simulators should go hand in hand, not enough developers make the evident connection when vehicles are involved, however much like TML's Bus Simulator San Francisco, GIANTS have set a new precedent on the simulator-management game.

Ski Region Simulator is a fantastic offshoot from the standard vehicular simulator, and whilst its management system is not as complex as some, the simple but effective task of running a Ski Resort is another excellent example of how simulators are evolving. Now if only they allowed you to try out your ski slopes for a spot of fun.

four stars

Ski Region Simulator is available now for the SRP of £24.99, if you love Farming Simulator then Ski Resort is a very interesting spin on the same yarn, whilst it might not hold hardcore management fans, it could prove a great Christmas present for your simulator friend.