|Developer: 49 Games
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 1-2 split screen, 2-4 online
As winter fades into springtime I finally discover why no one had picked up this game to review. Several of our reviewers had a quick go then carefully placed it back on my desk, where it would languish until I foolishly picked it up, determined to get the game reviewed come hell, high water or bad knee.
Winter Stars didn’t start well for me as although the main Kinect sign-in menu recognised me, remarkably the game (which presumably uses the same recognition software routine) didn’t, meaning I had to fiddle around re-doing the Kinect recognition sequence and using a joypad, not a good start to a Kinect game.
Winter Stars is a collection of eleven snow and ice based events; 4-Man Bobsled, Figure Skating, Biathlon (cross-country skiing & target shooting), Paraskiing, Curling, Snowmobile, Downhill Skiing, Freeride Skiing, Snowboard Cross, Ski Flying, and Short-Track. The first three are available from the start and you unlock the others by completing cup tournaments and challenges.
Between the actual cup events there are also a number of required special challenges that link the cups, such as training sessions that provide arcade-style action between events. For some unfathomable reason the idiots who designed this game removed the option for the simplified “family friendly” controls, and so because they have some ridiculous difficulty levels these challenges are SO difficult that many will find them harder than the cups themselves, or even find it impossible to unlock the next cup because the required challenge is SO tooth-grindingly, knee-poppingly hard that they have to give up or face physical injury.
No matter what the lighting conditions and how well set up the Kinect setup sequence told me it was, the game kept telling me “You are leaving the field of view” when I wasn’t even moving! Several events require you to crouch which then results in an on-screen message telling you to “move away from the sensor”! It’s probably just as well that Kinect means I wasn’t holding anything as it may well have become a projectile. In some events, sometimes your competitor reacts instantly to your leans and other control inputs, and at others he/she seems to develop a mind of their own and head straight off into the trees. Also, considering the number of racing/timed events, and although a voice tells you your position and glowing icons show the positions of AI opponents ahead of you, there are no split times or checkpoint time to let you know how far ahead or behind you are.
Old enough to remember how wonderful and addictive the single-buttoned joystick-controlled Epyx/US Gold Winter Games series was on the Commodore 64/128, this is yet another huge disappointment for me on the sporting game front. While I accept that a dodgy knee may have tainted my opinion of the game and limited my enjoyment, that had nothing to do with many of the other frustrations and annoyances that this game threw my way. This may be 'one for the kids' but I doubt it as the events just aren't fun or satisfying or visually stimulating enough to keep their interest, and I genuinely worry about the more mature gamer with more serious physical conditions and weaknesses than I, whose competitive spirits may make them try and contort themselves in the way that this game requires in order to get a skier down a mountain or hit a target. Be warned.
- The music is nice but way too grand and emotional for the game.
- The high-pitched surprise in the announcer’s voice regardless of which position you’re in. Unintentionally hilarious.
- The inexplicable cuddly Yeti.
- Fiddly menus.
- The most annoying Kinect calibration we’ve seen.
- Awful character model faces.
- Painful loading routines.
- Intrusive health and safety pop-ups - ‘Feeling tired or sore? Take a break’. Oh alright then, if you insist,