The first Oculus Gaming Showcase took place today, April 21st, with some major announcements for both the Quest 2 and PCVR. You can check out my Showcase roundup for the full event coverage, in this article, I want to focus on arguably the most exciting announcement of the day for fitness-minded VR fans, Chuhai Lab’s upcoming Winter Sports title Carve Snowboarding.
Oculus has released the following press announcement and accompanying trailer. They also kindly arranged for me to interview the creative force behind the game, Giles Goddard about the upcoming launch, alongside producer Mark Lentz, to find out more.
Carve Snowboarding for the Oculus Quest
- CONQUER THE SLOPES: Master some sick tricks and carve down the mountain your own way.
- RIDE FAST: Speed down the slopes to set your best time on all six courses. Challenge your friends and take on the world by working your way up the online leaderboard.
- UNLOCK NEW GEAR: Explore the mountain’s multiple paths and find all the rad gear — discover new boards, gloves, and even mixtapes.
- SET YOUR SOUNDTRACK: Collect more than 50 songs ranging from synthwave to indie rock and customize your soundtrack for every run on the slopes.
- RESET IN YOUR LODGE: Use this interactive space to kick back by the fire with your dog, select your gear, or create your custom mixtape for your next ride.
Chuhai Labs might not be a recognizable name in VR just yet, their one previous release Paper Valley for PCVR was well-reviewed but not widely played. Carve Snowboarding, however, is likely to be a lot more successful, thanks to its ancestral heritage, with direct roots back to the N64 classic 1080 Snowboarding.
Creative Director and Creator of Carve Snowboarding, Giles Goddard, an avid snowboarder himself was the lead programmer of 1080 Snowboarding for the Nintendo 64 console, as well as being part of the team that brought us the legendary space shooter, Star Fox. He is even credited for designing the face of Mario for Mario 64. I don’t know if there is a retro games programmers’ Hall of Fame, but if it exists, then Giles Goddard is undoubtedly enshrined within it.
For gamers old enough to remember 1080 Snowboarding, it was a fun and wacky mix of tricks, racing, and time trials, with a cast of goofy characters, over-the-top voiceovers, and musical riffs. It had some of the best graphical effects for its day too, including realistic snowfall and rider clothes rippling in the wind as they gained speed down the slopes.
Lentz says that Carve Snowboarding will definitely feel familiar to fans of the Nintendo classic, from the lodge base setting to the sporadic outbursts of music and commentary. The tone is said to be fun, irreverent, and silly, but the gameplay itself is no joke.
360 Degrees, Full Body Workout
Whereas 1080 Snowboarding utilized joypad button presses to perform tricks and combinations, in this new virtual reality realization of the sport you are the controller! Not only must you place your hands correctly to balance and position yourself, but to perform spins and turns YOU have to spin and turn within your playspace.
Goddard told me the wireless nature of the Quest is a major part of the game’s appeal, and what really makes playing Carve Snowboarding so challenging, both in terms of difficulty and physicality.
Attempting tricks by having to perform them in real life sounds both riotous good fun and an appropriate time to purchase some home contents insurance. It does suggest you might need a large playspace for this, but it’s the Quest, so you can use it anywhere.
Racing down mountains in VR whilst performing spins sounds like it will be challenging for those sensitive to motion sickness and VR nausea. Goddard addressed this saying it’s something the team has worked to resolve by having the player’s view narrow when traveling at speed. Unlike the visually jarring black tunnel effect that some games use, however, in Carve, a subtle snow effect is used that reduces your view without breaking the immersion.
When I asked how closely the gameplay mechanics approximate the real thing, Giles told me the game was semi-serious. Obviously without full leg tracking in VR, and your real body being stationary the game can’t be a true-to-life replication of the sport. Giles says the arm positioning however is fairly authentic. When I suggested The Climb as a game that combines both arcade thrills with gameplay mechanics that do give you a pretty good feel for that climbing experience they both agreed that Carve Snowboarding straddles that middle ground between sim and arcade in a similar way.
Asynchronous Multiplayer, Unlockables
Also, like The Climb, Carve Snowboarding features an asynchronous multiplayer mode where you can race against other players’ best times, their ghostly depiction on the slopes, according to Goddard being stylized similar to the red enemies in Superhot.
The game’s six courses all take place on a single, large mountain, with the more challenging courses starting from higher up the mountain’s slopes. There are various unlockables to discover and music plays a big part in the game experience, with songs of various genres to collect.
Release Date, Expectations
Carve Snowboarding will release for the Oculus Quest on May 27, with a price to be confirmed.
This definitely sounds like one to keep an eye on and offers something fresh and original to try out in virtual reality. Old-timers like myself can hopefully enjoy looking out for 1080 Snowboarding Easter Eggs and relive some of gaming’s past golden years, which thanks to VR, will this time be experienced from inside the game. I’m looking forward to this…