The launch of the Xbox consoles, both the original and the 360, came with certain genres. From day one, players could have a racing title, a first-person shooter, a sports title, or an adventure game to go along with their shiny new boxes. One of the genres that has always launched with the Xbox has been snowboarding. The original console launched with Amped, a simulation-style take on the sport while the Xbox 360 launched with Amped 3, a decidedly more arcade version of the sport. With Microsoft treating the launch of the Kinect as the launch of a new gaming system, it's only fitting that one of the launch titles would be a snowboarding game. Adrenalin Misfits is the first snowboarding title for the Kinect, and as far as snowboarding games go, it isn't half bad, especially since it's more of a downhill racer than a straight snowboarding title.
Adrenalin Misfits features several different modes that are only available after completing the lengthy tutorial mode. Downhill Slalom is the standard race mode where you must pass through as many gates as possible before reaching the finish line. Unlike other slalom races, though, the number of gates counts more than passing the finish line, so you can be dead last and still win if you passed through more gates than everyone else. Fly Distance is similar, but your placement is dependent on how far you travel while airborne. The score is cumulative, so everything from simple lumps to gliding after hitting a ramp all counts toward your total score before reaching the finish line.
Trick Score also eschews crossing finish lines first in favor of total points garnered from every trick you perform before reaching the finish. Balloon Buster places balloons on the track and gives you points for popping as many as possible before reaching the end. Free Race is the more traditional mode, where crossing the line first counts more than anything else. Finally, Stadium Games is split into three other submodes: Big Air, which scores you on how many tricks you can make from a high ramp before landing, Half-Pipe, and Freestyle Park, which is a simple area laden with ramps and rails on which you can perform tricks.
Each of the aforementioned modes is accessible after beating the five tutorial levels, but chances are that most players will approach the game in a particular way. Players start off so underpowered that races are almost impossible to win in the early stages. The default difficulty level drives players toward every other activity from Fly Distance to Trick Score because they'll have a better chance of winning the event.
The modes are more fun because their difficulty level is diminished and you usually only have to worry about one thing. Even the slowest players can win because they can take care of the objectives without wondering how the competition is doing. It makes the modes fun and challenging without feeling impossible — something that can't be said for Sonic Free Riders. This is especially true of the Freestyle Park events, which don't last very long but are fun enough that players will play them over and over again. Though the courses are repurposed several times, they are laid out well enough that they're good to race through, even though they aren't heavy on the whole divergent path idea that other racing titles have adopted.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, both Free Race and Balloon Buster feel tedious because you start off so underpowered. Until you get better boards, expect every other opponent to be much faster than you, resulting in constant last place finishes. The same things holding you back in Free Race will hold you back in Balloon Buster; the opponent's speed ensures that they'll reach just about every balloon before you do, leaving you with nothing. Despite the attributes given to each of the unlocked characters, you never feel that any of the new riders will do anything to help your game. They become more of an aesthetic feature rather than a useful one, so the Xbox Avatars are used more than anything else; unlocking of new characters becomes a useless reward.
Adrenalin Misfits features multiplayer but it is a bit limited when compared to Sonic Free Riders. Every event can be played offline against another player in split-screen, and despite the presence of another player, the graphical performance doesn't take a hit. The controls also handle well, with the game doing a good job of not getting player actions grafted on to the wrong characters. Like the single-player versions, the Trick Score and other point modes are more exciting to play, but the races are more fun thanks to the presence of another human player. If you don't have another player in the vicinity, though, you're stuck with playing the single-player modes since the game doesn't feature an online mode. There are leaderboards for every track, but without direct online competition, only those who are dedicated to getting the best times will still be playing the game after every track, board and character have been unlocked.
The controls work well and show how well one can pull off a racing game with the new control scheme. Steering is handled with body leans to either side, and the detection system catches these movements well. There was never a situation when the player felt like he had to do extreme leaning to either side to get the character to carve in the desired direction. Both forward and backward leans affect the rider's speed, but the speed changes feel slight when racing, so it's not really noticeable if you're speeding up or slowing down. Jumping and spinning initiates tricks, but raising your front or back legs also adds modifications, so the trick system feel deeper despite the lack of buttons to initiate more modifications. The only issue with the controls has to do with rail grinds, which are difficult to initiate and tough to keep one's balance without falling off the rail.
The audio is neither amazing nor horrible. The music is the generic rock you'd expect in an alternative racing title, and while it isn't memorable, it fits well with the game's theme. There aren't any voices aside from the announcer, and while the surfer dude accent gets annoying over time, it's more grating that the announcer repeats the same few phrases again and again. It'll take a few races to get through the whole phrase list, but considering the number of tracks you'll be going through, the repetition will be obvious early on. The sound effects work well enough, but just like the music, it isn't anything that can be considered great.
The comments about the audio can also be applied to the game's graphics and art style. The environments look good, but they also seem interchangeable with any other downhill racing on the market, save for the fact that some areas don't feature any snow, making this a snowboarding game that's more of a downhill racer. None of the available tracks feature anything memorable. The characters animate well and sport some great textures and shading, especially guys like Blaze and Moss, who show off some nice fur shading, but their overall designs feel like the creation of someone trying too hard to make hip-looking characters for a younger crowd. The frame rate handles well enough, even on split-screen, and the particle effects do their job. It all works well, but there's nothing memorable about the graphics.
Adrenalin Misfits is certainly a much better offering than Sonic Free Riders when it comes to board-style racing. The controls are much better since it has no trouble detecting your body movements. While the straight-up racing doesn't get exciting until you get the more advanced boards, the wealth of other events you can partake in means you'll spend more time unlocking stuff and having fun instead of getting beaten by the computer opponent. It's a fun game that's at least worth a rental if you or someone you know is interested in snowboarding.
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