I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty disappointed that we don’t have our definitive skating, skiing, or surfing game in VR yet. It’s 2021, people! What’s the holdup? Well, I’ve been playing Powder VR for over a week and I think it’s safe to say the wait for the first good skiing/snowboarding game is over.
Despite its early access state, Powder VR already has a healthy amount of content, including a World Tour mode, an Explore mode, and a Quick Race. If early access games even have tutorials, they are usually buggy as hell. Thankfully, Powder VR has a tutorial, and while it is a little buggy, it gives you what you need to start racing down the hill, which I why we’re all here. The tutorial suggested that virtual skiing is easier to learn than snowboarding so I started there. They were right, it is easier to ski at first, but both of them take some practice. Whether you’re skiing or racing down the hill on your snowboard, Powder VR feels remarkably like the real thing when you get comfortable with the controls. Now I say this as someone who has never actually worn a pair of skis… When you live in the flattest place on earth, skiing is pretty much a hobby for trust fund kids only. The rest of us have to settle for sledding down the hill behind the old Walmart. Okay, so I’m not a skiing expert, but I still found Powder VR both fun and exciting.
And that is the most important part, right? If Powder VR wasn’t fun; if the skiing and snowboarding didn’t feel awesome why would I bother telling you about all of the different modes, courses, and unlockables that are currently available, plus all of the content that is on the way? I wouldn’t. But it is fun, and it does feel awesome, so here goes:
Winning medals will unlock new courses, and you do this in a number of different ways. You can win races against AI opponents, reach milestones in basic time trials, and score mad points in freestyle runs. It’s the freestyle courses that have offered me some of the most fun and most frustrating moments in the game. Catching big air and physically reaching down to perform a board grab is pretty cool and one of those moments in VR that bring us VR heads coming back for more. The default setting has the game go into slow-motion during a jump when you kneel down. This is helpful because, while performing a board grab is cool, it’s not as seamless as it should be. The board will glow blue when you are close enough to grab it, but it still takes several grabs. I’ll get better at grabbing it cleanly, but I think this mechanic should be more forgiving. I suspect this will get ironed out soon. Plus, I’m sure I’ll get better at performing it too. I look forward to being able to turn off the slow-mo to really crank up the realism.
Speaking of realism: you can perform spins and flips or combine them all three to really rack up the points. In the default settings, the spins only affect the board under your feet, leaving the camera in a fixed position. If you’re hardcore, you can turn that off in the settings and spin your ass off. Fun fact; I was playing wirelessly using a Quest 2 and Virtual Desktop and I managed to perform a spin by manually spinning in my playspace. It actually scored the trick too! The bad news? That was the only decent spin I managed to pull off so far. Either the controls are too confusing, or I’m too stupid to figure them out. If you want to try the flips, you’ll need to turn them on in the settings. To perform a flip, you simply kneel down and lean forward to flip forward or lean back to do a backward flip. The further you lean in either direction, the faster you’ll spin. The trick is to stand up when your feet are pointed towards the ground, because you can’t land a flip on your head, apparently. If you’re prone to motion sickness, you might want to leave this option turned off…
Whether you want to grind rails and do flips on your snowboard, or just ski some beautiful locations, there is already plenty to love in Powder VR. I still think the freestyle needs some polish, but I love how they are focusing on an easy way to grind, flip, and spin, while also adding more realistic (and more difficult) methods for those who want a more realistic challenge.
According to the game’s website, most of the maps and courses will be completed within a month, while leaderboards, story mode, and multiplayer are still “some months” away. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with waiting until all of the courses are included, if you’ve been dreaming about a proper winter sports game to hit your favorite VR headset, Powder VR is absolutely worth your $20 bucks right now.
Review Disclaimer: This preview was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Previewed using Oculus Quest 2, Oculus Link, and Virtual Desktop.