REVIEW: Is Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands a Winter sports fan's dreamland?
Is it really full of wonder?
While not as popular as other genres, simulation games cater to a specific audience. These games offer semi-realistic environments and intriguing takes on activities that some users may never experience in their lifetime. From creating an ideal family or constructing an entire city, simulation games often fulfill players’ wildest dreams.
One dream, in particular, could revolve around sports. Snowboarding and skiing are two activities requiring skill, practice, and time to master. This is apparent for those who adore performing strategic or high-risk stunts with the respective equipment. The snowboarding gaming franchise SSX benefitted from this approach, creating a favorably immersive world with exhilarating game mechanics. Although Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands promises a good time, it doesn’t approach the activities with the care they deserve.
Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands is an indie simulation sports game developed by Toppluva AB, and published by Microids. In it, players can explore many uniquely designed maps featuring numerous challenges, buildings, citizens, and wildlife. You’re free to roam and gaze upon the map to your liking, regardless of whether you’ve unlocked a certain area’s challenges or not. You’ll earn ski passes for completing challenges, granting you access to locked chairlifts, cable cars, maps, and newer trials. The challenges range from easy to expert, and vary in task and design.
Some challenges include racing to an end goal or performing tricks to gain the highest score. The game also provides missions like maintaining a long-distance while airborne and traveling through many gates before time runs out. Each map offers players opportunities to earn secret ski passes as rewards for exploration, making their unlocking endeavors easier. The game also offers multiplayer support, where you and three others can race while throwing snowballs at each other. While that doesn’t sound too different from other snow sports titles, Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands’ controls make everything quite easy to tackle.
The game’s controls are basic, letting players move their characters left and right with the left analog stick. Moving it in a specific fashion can also help the player gain speed. You can perform a variety of tricks with the right analog stick, and the controller’s many face buttons grant you access to features like braking, jumping, drifting, attacking, rewinding, and several menu options. These menus allow players to choose between two board/ski alternatives and several items, camera choices, and modes. The start button houses one of the game’s important features; its several maps.
There are twelve different maps, each pinpointing their area’s unlockable and secretive content, regardless of your location. There are yellow and purple twinkling stars on each map that indicate the location of secret ski passes and trials. While the map is open, you can seamlessly return to the title screen by clicking the menu box near the bottom left corner. Access to the game’s settings, control guide, credits, and music list is available via its start screen.
Along with its simple controls, I found Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands gameplay to be easy to get into. Moving my character across the game’s different snow-filled landscapes felt comfortable. Gaining points by performing tricks and grinding across trees and rails felt exhilarating. Some challenges made me think outside the box and perform tricks I’d never thought possible. It made earning ski passes and breaking many of the tasks’ required records both rewarding and fun.
The challenges also left me chuckling at times. This is due to the game’s humorous ‘Failed’ animations. My character and their equipment were often sent miles apart from the other in an explosive manner. Other times, my character would perform numerous flips before I was greeted with the occasional “an unfortunate landing” text. Instead of blatant rage, I couldn’t help but giggle and try again a few seconds later. Allowing players to gain speed from knocking over NPCs and wildlife also helped the game feel less taxing and more delightful.
Furthermore, taking on any challenge with snowboard or ski equipment was a brilliant move on Toppluva AB’s part. I experimented with both equipment options to see how either would handle the game’s challenges. They both have two functionally different colored styles called Carving and Twin-tip. Both pieces of equipment felt fantastic to play, despite Twin-tip offering more advantages. The equipment aside, my experience with Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands was enhanced by another of the game’s items, along with the ability to rewind.
The replay camera was the most valuable item during my playthrough. This item allows players to rewatch their recent and best attempt at any challenge. However, it excludes moments where you discovered secret passes. This item worked in conjunction with the rewind ability, which sends you back to your current challenge’s starting point at any given time. With both tools, I could pinpoint the exact moment I failed a particular challenge, thus allowing me to conjure a new plan and correct those mistakes.
Although I enjoyed what Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands had to offer, there are numerous missed opportunities worth highlighting. While unlocking challenges and finding ski passes felt wonderful, things started getting rough midway through my playthrough. For instance, there was no way for me to fast travel to unlocked challenges and lifts. I had to visit their locations first before receiving said option. It felt awkward, sluggish, and game-breaking to travel up mountains and across the concrete to reach the game’s many trials. This is most apparent with upward travel, as you’re told not to travel in said fashion, despite it being the only way to reach some missions.
Even though it’s great to have two different equipment style options, I found the Twin-tip boards and skis superior to the Carving variants. With the Twin-tip equipment, you can land in a backward direction after jumping or performing tricks, which I found vital in completing most challenges. The Carving equipment doesn’t offer that or any advantages. Even on paper, it would sound useless. Furthermore, the game could’ve also benefitted from a robust customization system. Adding new customizable and diverse equipment options wouldn’t only differ in perks; they’d further immerse players into the game’s world.
While local multiplayer with three other individuals provided a stellar time at first, the fun dried up quickly. Local multiplayer is great, but I personally prefer online multiplayer since it’s easier to get everyone together. Introducing online minigames or a leaderboard system would’ve helped the game sustain more replayability. Competitive gamers who love to compare scores with friends and strangers online would love this. Finally, the camera options could’ve been better. The game made tracking my character’s location difficult, regardless of whether I completed missions or not. The three different camera angle options you can pick from didn’t suffice, leaving me always looking for more free camera control.
While Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands’ gameplay was mixed, the game’s visuals left me in awe. The environments for each map were never barren or lifeless. This is because you’ll witness many NPCs partaking in similar activities to yourself in the overworld. Traveling across maps via cable cars and chairlifts also helped to immerse myself in each map’s lively settings. The telescope’s first-person camera and the snowglobe’s snowflake filter also made each area pop more. Unfortunately, whenever you get caught in an avalanche near a busy environment, the framerate plummets. Thankfully, this only happened on the rarest of occasions and would resolve itself in seconds.
The game’s soundtrack happens to be a treasure as well. The OST never felt too chaotic or exhilarating, thanks to its ambient and calming nature. This made competing in challenges and traveling across each map comfortable and less stressful. The game’s Zen Mode only adds to this feeling, as it amplifies the relaxing feeling you get from the Winter season. It’s worth noting that you can’t complete challenges or find hidden ski passes/trials in this mode, but doing so would kind of go against the whole Zen approach.
While Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands has some issues, it has a lot of charm, and the developers clearly put a lot of thought into the experience. From a design point of view, many challenges felt different, allowing me to complete challenges my way. The game’s items and small customization components also added to my connection with the world. The game’s visuals were breathtakingly stunning. The soundtrack provided me with less stress and more comfort than I had initially expected. Even the maps are fun to explore alone or with friends.
Conversely, the game could’ve included more features to drive home its “grand” tagline. Online multiplayer and leaderboards could help the game achieve high replay value. Allowing players to fast travel to challenges and vehicles (once unlocked) would make mission completion more convenient, instead of bothersome. Adding a slightly more complex customization system would help players forge distinct experiences with the game. Grand Mountain Adventure: Wonderlands is listed at 34$, and those interested in purchasing the game should wait for a price reduction or special sale. While the game wasn’t as grand as I hoped, it was jam-packed with passion and wonder.
Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy your time with the game.
had never heard of this game til you reviewed it, (very in depth and well written) its up my alley except for that camera view
Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy your time with the game.
Happy you appreciate the vividness of the environment and the music :)
Just a note, you can fast travel to challenges from the minimap once you've discovered them once.
/Viktor, developer of the game