Review: MacSoft Drop Point: Alaska

Snowboard Alaska mountain without risk to body and limb. (August 15th, 2008)

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: MacSoft

Price: $24.95 US

The Good

  • Vast play area. Ten different runs under a variety of weather conditions. Open-ended gameplay. Tons of tricks. Great price.

The Bad

  • May be too open for some. Questionable physics on occasion. Play does not scale well to low-end machines.

Extreme Sports titles for the Mac are limited to the occasional Tony Hawk skateboarding game. As a long-time console gamer, I've played my fair share of snowboarding games, such as classics like Cool Boarders and SSX, so it's nice to see that a game based on a popular winter sport is now on the Mac - MacSoft's Drop Point: Alaska. This Bongfish Interactive developed game puts you in the shoes of a rather well modeled male or female snowboarder to explore and glide across a raw Alaskan mountain. While I welcome the genre to the Mac platform, its unique play-style may be of little interest to you, unless you're a snowboard enthusiast.

The vast scale of the nearly untouched mountain on which players board down may be the biggest appeal to Drop Point: Alaska. The size of the play area allows you to choose from any of ten helicopter drop points, navigate the mountain face, and attempt free-form challenges, called "Own a Trick" spots. The drop points show up as streams of light dotting the mountainside. This style of play should appeal to those of you who must finish every challenge a game has to offer - since there are over a hundred such challenges. They require any one of the five boards to complete, which are unlocked through completing the various tasks.

Drop Point: Alaska screen

Helicopter Drop Points


This approach, combined with the lack of any imposed time or explorative limits, tends to offer a very sandbox-like style play. Drop Point: Alaska tends to be a very relaxing experience, which I like personally, but will turn off more objective-driven players who desire immediate action. It can be a little tedious navigating the landscape, and finding challenges to perform, but an aerial view before the your run orients you to where they sit. In addition, you can trick off almost any obstacle you see.

Varied Game Play

Challenges range from rudimentary tutorials, where you learn the simple tricks, sometimes in unexpected combinations. Your aim is to beat the computer's score record, through doing a more complex set of tricks than the previous record. While your boarder moves and reacts smoothly, the lack of a variety of tricks may be disappointing for some. Since this is such an environmentally large-scale simulation, I forgive of this fact, because the mountainous scenery is a joy to watch and explore. More complexity could hinder the core appeal of the game, which is traversing the mountain.

The sprawling Alaskan backdrops and well-rendered mountains certainly look dazzling, especially on a large widescreen monitor or TV, but the rest of the scenery looks tacked on and of lower quality. It appears almost as if trees, logs, rocks, buildings, and other obstacles were designed by a completely different team, and randomly spattered across the landscape. Your collisions with scenery also lack consistency, as sometimes you bounce harmlessly off a tree, while other times a seemingly well-executed trick fails, and you fall to the ground.

Drop Point: Alaska screen

Mountain View


One of my favorite moments in Drop Point: Alaska is the discovery of a steep cliff face for the first time. For example, I glided over what I thought was a straight path and all of a sudden I was air born. On a larger monitor, the lift feeling you get as you hurtle through the air is mind numbing. Throw in a few tricks, twists, and flips, and you have a surrealistic and entertaining experience.

Drop Point: Alaska screen

Snowboarding On Thin Air

Music

The soundtrack uses Indie bands, such as Red Lights Flash and captures the right mood. Besides the fast-paced soundtrack, you only hear the sliding and carving sounds of your board. While I have read some complaints that this cheapens the experience, but as a former snowboarder, I disagree. I haven't done any free-form mountain riding, but I can appreciate the simplicity of listening to an iPod at moderate volume while you feel and hear the rumbles and slices of the board beneath your feet. Instead of narrators mouthing off at every turn, this game simplifies the play and simulates a truly free ride without unnecessary noise.

Intel Mac-Based

The game's open nature may be intimidating if you are used to similar games with a predefined route, but I think its an accurate snowboarding simulation in a fantasy world of lone boarding down that great big virgin hill. It ran smoothly on my 2.4GHz MacBook Pro, even with my 22-inch external monitor. I played it with full options, and almost never experienced choppiness in the frame rate. Macsoft claims the game runs on machines with integrated graphics chipsets (MacBook and Mac mini), but it yields a much lower video quality and for me, this would ruin the true nature of the simulation.

Endless Game Play

In gamer parlance, I am not a completionist in the strictest sense of the word, so I didn't finish all the challenges, but had a fantastic experience. You can choose the time of day and weather conditions to run too, which enable you to alter your experience on previously run routes. More personalized options, such as a larger wardrobe, might have been nice, because there are only two outfits offered, one for summer and one for winter. A few hidden start points or areas or other tricks might have been nice too. The ability to unlock the helicopter and fly to any drop point is a feature mentioned in the press release, but I never found it.

Recommended

I think Drop Point: Alaska is an entertaining simulation for purists, and a decent glimpse of the sport for those unfortunate souls who can't board. The reasonable price and enjoyable mountain runs makes this a fun game for any sports enthusiast.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Galen Wood


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