Believe it or not, Red Bull is involved in more than just selling energy drinks. Over the years, the beverage company has sponsored sporting and cultural events and even helped to create a few of them. B-Boy enthusiasts are familiar with the company's BC One competition while motocross fans know about X-Fighters. There's a race to Monaco known as X-Alps, a paper airplane championship known as Paper Wings, and the ever-popular human flight event known as Flugtag. The existence of Crashed Ice isn't surprising, but its transition into a video game is, especially since it isn't well known in areas that don't experience severe winter conditions. Unfortunately, Red Bull Crashed Ice Kinect won't do anything to get people interested in the sport.
Crashed Ice is similar to a snowmobile race on a closed track, only with ice skates instead of skis or a motorized vehicle. Equipped with hockey gear, four racers navigate tracks filled with steep drops, slopes, and sharp turns as they speed to the finish line. While the races are exciting, some liberties were taken to make it more exciting for the video game crowd. These additions include jumping through flaming hoops, more obstacles to crash through, and rails to grind while collecting power-ups for a temporary speed boost.
As in most Kinect titles, you'll see crowds and racers comprised of Avatars littering each course. By default, you'll use your own Avatar, but you can also use other characters, including likenesses of some professional Crashed Ice racers. After choosing your combination of helmets, jerseys and pants, you're pitted against three other racers. The race tracks have some variety, and there are some hidden shortcuts in a few spots.
The main mode is a championship series consisting of five courses, all based on real Crashed Ice racing locations and sporting various difficulty ratings. When viewing each course, you can go into time trial mode to log the fastest time on the leaderboards, or you can select an online rival to race against. In each course, you can also enter a championship, which entails a qualifying round and two elimination rounds before you get a medal.
The core of the racing is quite competent due to a simple control scheme. In Red Bull Crashed Ice Kinect, you only need to move your arms to skate. As expected, the faster you move your arms, the faster you skate. Leaning in either direction helps you turn while jumping helps you get more air during jumps. Finally, ducking and pulling your arms up for a block help you get through some of the extra obstacles on the track. The controls are quite responsive, even when you're moving fast, and there were only a few instances when the controls didn't read the blocks or ducks in time. Even then, the bumps you take aren't often enough to make you lose your place in the race.
The game's lack of difficulty does hurt it significantly. Pull off a perfect race, and you'll notice that the competition, no matter which round you're in, is left far behind at almost all times. Hit a few obstacles or fail to take advantage of the shortcuts, and it's still easy to get a gold medal, so you really have to try to lose in order to get a silver. The courses, despite being augmented for a video game, are rather short, so you can finish each one in less than 90 seconds. With no real changes to the courses from the qualifying to the elimination rounds, you'll feel like you're going through the motions to get that medal. When these two issues are combined, you have a game that can be finished in less than an hour for the solo player. You can extend that game time by unlocking all of the outfit pieces, but since they're only available in the game and provide no racing benefits, there isn't much motivation.
Some of these shortcomings could be saved by multiplayer, but like most of the game, this also feels shortsighted. There is offline split-screen play for two players, and that works well without misreading movements from either player. You can race against ghosts to improve your time on the leaderboards, but don't expect true online multiplayer. With the AI opponents being pretty lackluster, human competition would've made up for the lack of courses. There is a silver lining to this, though, in the form of a timed leaderboard tournament where the winner gets free tickets to an actual Crashed Ice event. Once this is removed, though, there isn't much incentive to keep playing.
Presentation is pretty average. There's not much in the sound department when it comes to voices or effects, and the music is standard rock stuff you'd expect from a title like this. None of it is licensed, but the riffs and cadences of each instrumental track sound like generic radio fare. Graphically, the title also goes for being just good enough. There's some detail when it comes to the Avatar clothes, and the animations are smooth for things like getting hit or blocking. The environments also look good, with some nice volume as far as crowds are concerned and a sparse use of particle effects, like falling snow and ice shavings. The frame rate also holds steady, and the lighting is pleasing. No single area of the presentation is spectacular, but there's something to be said for a downloadable Kinect title that is of average visual quality on a seven-year-old system.
Even with the low 400 Microsoft points ($5) price tag, it's difficult to recommend Red Bull Crashed Ice Kinect to anyone looking for more than an hour or two of entertainment. There are only five courses and a flimsy single-player mode, despite the rather decent racing found within. Though the presence of tournaments is nice, the multiplayer feels like a missed opportunity due to the lack of direct online competition. From a technical standpoint, the title controls well, sounds fine, and looks on par with most other Kinect titles. If you've already burned through Kinect titles, this isn't bad as long as you know your time — and possibly interest — in it will be short-lived.
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