Powder VR Early Access Review: A Fine Winter Sports Game

Terje Haakonsen’s Powder VR (THPVR) on Steam Early Access may be a mostly enjoyable VR winter sports outing, but it’s rather lacking right now. Read on for our full Powder VR review in progress!

Powder VR is quite a departure for developers RainSoft. Having previously brought us John Lazarus – Dead Man’s Origin to VR, they’ve now turned their attention to the snowy slopes, bringing us wingsuit flying, skiing, and snowboarding in one package. Revealed as Powder VR back in 2019, it underwent significant delays and rebranding before eventually launching last month, bringing in famous Norwegian snowboarder Terje Håkonsen for guidance to make this a more accurate simulator, a move which seems to have paid off.

Powder VR Early Access Review – The Facts

What is it?: A VR winter sports game featuring snowboarding, skiing, and wingsuit flying
Platforms: SteamVR [link]
Release Date: December 16th, 2020 (Early Access)
Price: $19.99

Currently, THPVR is a solo experience and begins with a comprehensive tutorial for the various sports. Skiers must face forward, bending your knees when turning and using the touch controllers as ski poles, building up speed and letting you change direction. Snowboarders must rotate their body 90° but have your head facing forward. Once you begin heading down the slope, turning is based around your hand movement, which feels unusual at first.

Across both options, you can quick turn via the joysticks and jump by pressing the triggers, giving you more airtime if you hold them down. Skiing is easier to get started with, but snowboarding offers much faster gameplay, though it’s more difficult to handle. That said, RainSoft have confirmed 3dRudder support is coming, which would certainly give snowboarding a more natural feel. For the most part however, both have otherwise been replicated well in VR. 

Once you’ve completed this tutorial, Powder VR offers three gameplay options. Players wanting to just dive in should check out Quick Race, letting you participate between five different modes. That includes Downhill Race, a standard race to the finish against 3 AI opponents. Freestyle ranks you based on tricks performed, such as grinding. Time Attack is your time trial mode and there’s also two checkpoint modes, where you must ride through set gates within a specified time limit.

Exploration Mode is available for those looking to free roam these mountain ranges without time constrains, also allowing you to undertake side quests which include Wingsuit gameplay and Boostpack missions within skiing. At this time, Powder VR offers three ranges in total, based around Courmayeur, Brevent-Flegere, and the Cascade Mountains, with a further three to be added later.

World Tour is essentially your campaign, offering set challenges based around these five modes before moving onto the next region. Each challenge comes with a target to earn you Bronze, Silver or Gold medals. They encourage replayability and unlock new areas to explore whilst doing so, requiring a set number. Gold counts as earning 3 medals, 2 for Silver and 1 for Bronze, so that doesn’t take too long. 

Additional skiing equipment/snowboards are also unlocked by earning medals and these aren’t just cosmetic, holding varied stats like higher acceleration or top speed. As a purely cosmetic option, your appearance can be customised, letting you change hairstyles, facial hair and moew, though this isn’t hugely in-depth.

For the most part, RainSoft have done well with Powder VR’s core premise and there’s a lot of potential here, as it’s quite satisfying to rack up those gold medals. Expectedly though, there just isn’t much available right now and racing against AI isn’t that exciting, even with four difficulty options to up the challenge. Out of the 60 playable areas planned, only 20 are available between the three mountain ranges. 

Powder VR Review – Comfort Settings

THPVR might prove uncomfortable for some due to its fast-paced gameplay, which accurately recreates the basic motions of each sport. At one point I had to stop and come back after taking a motion sickness tablet. Several options can help reduce nausea, such as turning off the camera shake and adjusting how far your quick turn changes your position.

Other options provide increased immersion but come with an increased risk of nausea, including raising your head to jump or an unlocked view of spins and flips. Clear nausea warnings are in place for these however and they aren’t default settings, which is pleasing. THPVR also accommodates for left and right-handed players during snowboarding.

Previously mentioned updates aside, there is significant content due to be added as Powder VR’s development progresses and most promisingly, that includes multiplayer support. An expanded campaign with side missions has also been promised, alongside new gameplay tricks like buttering and jibbing. Like any Early Access game though, just make sure you know what you’re getting in for at this stage of development. 

Terje Haakonsen’s Powder VR Early Access Review – Final Impressions

Despite the early launch issues, RainSoft has done well with Terje Haakonsen’s Powder VR and it brings us a fine recreation of snowboarding and skiing. There’s certainly promise within and winter sports fans would do well to take a look but at this development stage, caution is advisable. At the very least, I’d recommend trying out the demo first before making any purchases. With an eye-catching list of upcoming features, this is certainly one to keep an eye out for. 

Score: TBD

This review was conducted on an Oculus Quest 2 via Virtual Desktop, using an Early Access Steam version of the game. As an Early Access release, a score is not provided at this time.

Terje Haakonsen’s Powder VR is available on Steam now for $19.99. A free demo is also available on the game’s Steam page.

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