App of the Day: Ski Safari

Slope off.

When you hear the word "safari" you probably get pretty distinct mental images: the savannah, lions and elephants, straw yellow and burnt earth. But this is not what Brisbane-based Defiant Development had in mind, at least if Ski Safari is any indication.

Maybe it has something to do with living in a country where a mundane trip into your backyard could yield a wildlife encounter considered exotic on other continents. It could be that the developers just have an affinity for the scant parts of Australia that can support a skiing tourism industry. Whatever the case, Ski Safari's brand of outdoor expedition is a bit more SSX than Afrika, more escape than serene savannah experience.

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That says it all, doesn't it?

Unlike the crudely slaloming found in SkiFree's similarly endless mountain, Ski Safari gives you bigger problems than wayward abominable snowmen looking for a quick snack (on the contrary, the yeti population of this mountain are actually quite helpful).

A massive avalanche overtaking Ski Safari's mountain is enveloping everything in its path. Your only choice is to ski for your life, for as long as you can hope to feasibly outpace a natural disaster. On your way down you can perform flips, grind on signposts and skip off the top of cabin roofs, all of which hasten the uptick of points added to your score as you hurtle downward.

As a game with a one-button control scheme (tap the screen to jump, hold down to rotate counter-clockwise for tricks), Ski Safari is ferociously addictive and can be quite taxing. Unlike other running-style games, you actually have to monitor your speed on top of any obstacles in your path.

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Penguins: not a recommended avalanche repellent.

This is where the safari bit comes in, such as it is. The animals on parade here aren't that varied (penguins, eagles, the aforementioned yeti and, yes, even the wild snowmobile), but hopping a ride on one's back greatly increases your base speed. Flips and other combo tricks trigger a rocket boost, meanwhile. All of these things will help keep you from your inevitable demise, being swallowed by the wall of white powder, for a just a little longer.

At all times you are but a collision away from being back to your comparatively slow skis, though. This makes weighing the risk-to-reward ratio of recklessly attempting stunts with faunal friends vitally important. The nuanced physics engine can be maddening: the surging acceleration you get from tricks is counter-balanced with a significant decrease in speed during the rotation needed to pull them off, for example.

It's a relief then, that the in-game achievements are actually useful. These unlock higher combo chains and access to tiered animal types to ride from the starting point. The Sisyphean nature of a never-ending, randomised slope makes Ski Safari next to impossible to put down, especially when you're watching your score scream ever upwards while riding high on a 12x combo chain in a snowmobile. And, thankfully, restarting is a lot quicker than riding a ski-lift.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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