*Review based on Slalom’s release as part of Rare Replay*
Slalom, as its title suggests, is a skiing video game where players partake in a series of downhill slalom runs. One of the first releases under the then-newly rechristened Rare, Slalom was also the first NES game developed outside of Japan. Perhaps both a testament to the NES’ abilities and to Rare’s output after the name-change, Slalom may be a simple experience, but is considerably more fun than most of the ZX Spectrum games Rare made back when they were known as Ultimate Play the Game.
The gameplay of Slalom is simple enough; you choose one of three mountains, each consisting of eight skiing challenges. Snowy Hill is the place to go for beginners, Steep Peak is of the medium difficulty, and the hilariously-named Mount Nasty provides a challenge for experts.
Once your mountain is picked, you must head down the mountain while avoiding hazards, obstacles and other skiers to keep your momentum going. You can pass through flag posts to gain speed, but if you run into a flag, it’s the same as hitting any other obstacle, and you lose speed. You must make it to the goal within a time limit, with extra points being rewarded for reaching the goal faster and for your performance. But, should you fail to make it to the goal within the time limit of even a single challenge, the game is over, and you go back to the beginning.
If that sounds a bit unforgiving, it’s because it is. Though the core gameplay is fun and addicting, Slalom is one of those NES games that will definitely take a lot of patience before you get the hang of it. Expect to throw a few fits of rage when you start failing on the earlier levels of Snowy Hill repeatedly.
It must also be said that a little something is lost in the Xbox One version in Rare Replay, as this is a game tailor-made for the D-pad, but the Xbox One controller’s D-pad is far from ideal. You’re honestly better off with the joystick if playing on Xbox One, but of course that doesn’t feel right either.
Still, if you can muster up the courage for its challenge, then you have a fun NES game on your hands. The re-release’s controls may not be ideal, but they could certainly be much worse. The simple gameplay of going downhill and avoiding obstacles is a lot more fun than it may sound, and the game has a fun sense of humor by peppering the stages with obstacles like snowmen and kids playing in the snow. And, for an NES game, Slalom has surprisingly strong visuals, with the levels moving in such a way as to bring to mind SNES titles like F-Zero and Super Mario Kart.
It may be simple stuff, but Slalom provides some good, challenging, 8-bit fun.