Secret Shelf - Slopecrashers is the fast and furious snowboarding resurgence
The slow crawl back to extreme sports video games has well and truly begun, not unlike a climb to the top of a mountain. And what follows is about to be just as thrilling.
There's something fascinating about the way sports games that live outside of the pure, license-filled genre sims are beginning to flourish in the 2020s. The last couple of years has shown that there might be a way back to those early '00s glory days of SSX Tricky and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. The likes of OlliOlli World, Shredders and Riders Republic have shown us that the audience for these games remains even in their absence from the industry, after many theorised that fans were growing tired of seeing the same thing repeated year in, and year out in sports franchises.
But, a combined yearning for the games of old and a passion to create a new era for the genre have collated into a game that not only pushes the boundaries of what we expect of an arcadey snowboarding game, but reflects on the childish bounciness of couch co-op classics to create what may be the best contest to Mario Kart that we've had in a decade. This is Slopecrashers, and if there is any justice in the world, it's going to be the game that brings those SSX days into the future, with style, finesse, and capybaras in tow.
Slopecrashers is exactly what it sounds like
You may think you know what Slopecrashers is just by looking at it, but truly, you don't know anything. The game combines the snowboarding excitement of SSX with the arcadey frenetics of Mario Kart - but according to the game's solo developer Hannes (known online as Peekstone), inspiration stems from much further back - and as we jump into a game of Slopecrashers to take each other on, he (and his test account, a capybara named Jason Derulo) tells GGRecon about the root from which his game stemmed.
"I don't know if you've ever played Snowboard Kids for the N64, but that was basically my childhood in a nutshell," he says as we cruise down the game's first slope. "That's where my main motivation comes from, because I always wanted a game like that again. I played all of the kart racers, all the snowboarding games and… all are fun, but not really what I'm seeking. So I thought okay, let's just do it. Let's just create it myself."
There are key elements of the N64 classic that pairs up with the likes of SSX Tricky and Amped 3 to create a picture of why the snowboarding game was so special, and set aside from the rest of the sporting video game world.
Snowboard Kids showed a willingness to allow players to go wherever they wanted on their respective mountain or track. In spite of winning the race being the most important goal, the game offered a special, contained freedom that didn't require a vast open world to allow you to feel as though you were in total control.
"If you look at this game from afar, it seems like Mario Kart, and that's fair; but as soon as you break out of the boundaries of the track and just explore more, you see that it's way more open. If you've played SSX, like you can go everywhere. Everything's out of bounds, and it doesn't matter. Just go through with it. That's kind of like what I'm going for with this."
Slopecrashers is hiding incredibly competitive possibilities
You'd never guess it looking at the parrots, chickens and capybaras gracing the slopes themselves, but Slopecrashers has been painstakingly developed with a competitive future in mind - and its half-life of learning the game to truly mastering it is shrinking by the minute. Peekstone has even gone so far as to enlist the help of speedrunners in the still-vibrant SSX community to push himself to give the game a competitive edge.
"I feel like [competitive play] is where the meat of the game kind of is. It always has been, kind of. I'm still trying to make it casually accessible because it looks like a casual game, it has these cute characters, it's very cartoony, and when the first playtester started playing the game, they'd be like 'why is this game so difficult? This is more like F-Zero than a casual kart racer.' So I started working to sync the entry barrier while still maintaining the skill ceiling being very high."
There's plenty working under the hood of Slopecrashers, and from first-hand experience, it's clear that endless effort has gone into offering the game the perfect polish. The game has been in development for years now, and it's clear to see why when you pull off the perfect trick, go exploring in the Neon City course or deploy from a huge jump into the perfect glide.
It's a simple enough control scheme, but to master, it will take huge amounts of work and perfecting - and the way that the game is made makes it the prime candidate to be the next big thing. And damn, does it deserve to be.
Slopecrashers should be the next big thing
It's always hard to predict when a game is going to explode, but if the extreme sports game is destined to blast back, then there will definitely be a home for Slopecrashers on Steam - and maybe even beyond.
"I am actually working on a Switch version already because I always meant for it to be on Switch," Peekstone tells us. "But I hope to take it everywhere I can take it, to be honest."
It'd be a full circle to see the game land on a Nintendo console after Snowboard Kids influenced its creation back on the N64, and frankly, there's no better place for the game to flourish than on a console that already encourages inquisitive play and couch-co-op karting.
The game is an impressive feat not only of Peekstone's resolve as a developer but also of a genre that has been pent up for too long. If a little bit of cartoony goofiness is what it takes to bring the snowboarding game back for another swing for the fences, then there is no doubt that Slopecrashers is the project to do it. The charge back to extreme sports games is barreling over the horizon, and it's led by a capybara called Jason Derulo.