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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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Family Ski and Snowboard

Quite good, on balance.

Some old philosopher once described life in a lawless society as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". That's how I feel about snowboarding. Or rather the one time I went snowboarding. And you can add "cold", "expensive" and "rubbish", by the way.

So hooray for Family Ski and Snowboard, which eliminates many of the unpleasant things about real-life winter sports. It won't cost you an arm or a leg, in either sense. The risk of serious injury from flailing your arms about while standing on a set of glorified bathroom scales is low, and at GBP 34.99 it's cheaper than going to Austria.

You don't have to leave your nice warm lounge. You don't have to wear a padded shell suit. You can talk to your friends whilst playing, even if they're better at it than you, instead of watching them whizz off down the mountain like adrenaline-crazed Eskimos leaving Grandma to die in the snow.

But does this sequel improve on its predecessor, Family Ski? (Or, as I pointed out it should be properly titled, Communal Crotch Flaying.) Seeing as Family Ski and Snowboard is basically the same game with one obvious difference, you could call it Communal Crotch Flaying While Standing Sideways on a Set of Glorified Bathroom Scales, but only if you could be bothered to type that out for the rest of the review.

Family Ski and Snowboard is played by using the Wii remote and nunchuck like ski poles. You waggle them in an up-and-down motion to gather speed. This results in genital flagellation from the cable connecting the two controllers. However, it's not the only way to gather speed. I failed to point this out in my review of the previous game, but several readers kindly did it for me.

They're right, of course - you can also gather speed by twisting the controllers and tucking your arms in, and I am "seriously amateur". Sorry. The tucking manoeuvre does help to reduce the amount of crotch-flaying experienced with Family Ski and Snowboard. It's still an occasional problem though, and I'd argue that sometimes it's a bit tricky to steer and stay tucked in at the same time.

The clouds and characters seem to belong to different games - but they both look alright.

However, that isn't an issue if you're playing with the Wii balance board. You place it parallel to the TV if you've opted to ski, or perpendicular if you're snowboarding. In either case, you tilt your weight to steer. The balance board is highly responsive; in fact you need bit of practice to appreciate just how sensitive it is to your movements. It can even tell when you switch from crouching to standing, which is how you perform jumps. (Your instinct will be to do actual jumps but the game will tell you off for doing this, presumably because it's bad for the board's technomagical innards.)

Using the board is much more fun than using the remote and nunchuk alone. It feels more like you're actually zooming down a mountain, though the profusion of tiny people with giant heads and eyes like dinner plates makes it hard to fully believe you're in Val d'Isère. If you want to get all fancy you can use the remote and controller to perform special turns and tricks, and there's an extensive tutorial for those who like showing off. But if you just want to swoosh about a bit, the controls are easy to get to grips with.