The majority of Microsoft Kinect offerings available for the Xbox 360 have ranged from promising to downright forgettable, so you’ll forgive us if we haven’t been holding our breath for satisfying experiences with made with dedication, delivering games that aren’t just intelligent uses of the Kinect, but streamlined, entertaining, and fun.
A bit of buzz surrounding the recently-released Red Bull Crashed Ice Kinect caught our attention, crafted by the developers at Bongfish GmbH, the Austrian studio behind the snowboarding game Stoked. We downloaded the game to find out if the snowy lunacy translated from the slope to the frozen track. And boy, are we glad we did.
The actual sport on which the game is based, downhill ice cross, is just the kind of competitive madness and spectacle that first made extreme sports possible, and every effort is taken to mimic that same experience in its Kinect incarnation. Fireworks, roaring crowds, flaming rings and even screaming fighter jets are all included to communicate that this game should be nothing if not fun.
Those looking for an accurate simulation of skating, balance, and the difficulties required to succeed in Crashed Ice may be disappointed, but we’ll take power-ups, massive jumps (rewarding the best timing with barrel rolls and spins) and maniacally shaped grind rails over realism any day. Again, this is supposed to be a game – a dedication to accurate physics makes little sense when the players are leaping in front of their TVs.
The tone and presentation of Crashed Ice Kinect meshes extremely well with the actual inputs, simplified to swinging arms at your side, leaning, jumping, crouching, and kicking to take down competing on-screen avatars. Swing arms faster to skate harder, and make sure your timing is right on the money – that’s about it.
While the inputs are simple, and more often than not successful, the animations to go along with them are about as polished as one could hope. From the realistic skating and crossovers, the ragdoll leaping over massive jumps, and the precarious spills brought on by botched landings or takedowns, every motion has received a respectable amount of attention. It may not prepare players for the difficulty of actual Crashed Ice, but it will have them wishing they could take part.
The game offers a solid selection of clothing with which to customize your skater, and while the five tracks included in the game leave something to be desired, the range of difficulty within those is enough to make a lengthy play session from feeling boring or repetitive. Of course, the best feature of Crashed Ice Kinect is that it delivers one heck of a workout without making the player feel like they’re, you know…getting a workout.
If the idea of spending several minutes at a time rapidly pumping one’s arms, jumping, leaning and crouching doesn’t get your heart rate up, trust us: it does. In that sense, this Kinect offering bests mini-games within fitness titles like Your Shape by offering a well-polished, completely satisfying cardiovascular workout without the need to advertise itself as one.
That feature alone will convince parents that its worth a purchase for their children, with the possibility of planting the seeds of an actual interest in skating only sweetening the deal – potential that could have been delivered on even more were the game to be a bit more substantial.
Crashed Ice Kinect allows players to go head-to-head against a chosen ‘Rival': one of their online friends selected prior to a race. Two players are also able to compete in offline mode, although the sport in question should make it clear why it’s more important than ever to mind your surroundings (and eachother).
Altogether, Bongfish and Microsoft have produced one of the most pleasant surprises we’ve encountered among clearly-branded XBLA/Kinect downloadable games. And considering the price, the game is a no-brainer for players looking for a fun way to inject a bit of pulse-pounding fun (literally) into their gaming, or for fans of Crashed Ice and Kinect Avatar games in general.
This also raises our expectations for Bongfish’s upcoming Avatar Motocross Madness, shown off at E3 with style that instantly caught our attention. The developers have successfully translated their prioritizing of fun and off-the-wall gameplay to motion gaming, so we look forward to whatever they work on next.
It may be a slim offering, but this game is a perfect example of what kind of games Microsoft would do well to encourage as the base line for Kinect arcade titles.
Red Bull Crashed Ice Kinect is available for download on the Xbox Live Arcade for 400 Microsoft Points ($4.99).
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