Kinect and snowboarding should go together like peanut butter and chocolate, yet out of the gate riding sports have fallen closer to the experience of discovering Vegemite on the floor: a (very) select (and brave) few will be able to wring some enjoyment out of the likes of SEGA’s Sonic Free Riders and Konami’s Adrenaline Misfits (known as CROSSBOARD 7 in Europe) obvious poor deliveries, but most will probably find them all a bit too much to handle.
Actually, we take that Vegemite bit back in this case. Adrenaline Misfits’ eXXXtremity and structure makes it the video game equivalent of a 10-year-old can of Mountain Dew: it’ll get the job done in a pinch, but it tastes kind of funny and is probably not good for anyone in the long run.
At its heart, Misfits is a very basic arcade snowboarding game, with simple stunts and power-ups to bust out over the course of its assorted events like jump challenges, stunt runs, balloon hunts and straight-up downhill jams. There are plenty of boards and characters to unlock as you go, and you can rope in a friend for local play, but it nags the question as to why you would really want to see all it has to offer: once you’ve finished one or two events in each category, you’ve seen most of what the game has to offer save for the scenery and it becomes just not that fun any more.
It sounds silly to rag on a racing game for being repetitive since zooming around is exactly what they set out to do, but there’s an inescapable feeling of been-there-done-that throughout each event’s progression. Once you’ve popped one balloon, jumped one ramp or raced one hill, you may as well have done them all. Maybe it’s because the structure feels so loose as if it were haphazardly thrown together, or maybe the lack of variety is just poorly hidden behind its various doors. Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s because arguing with the Kinect sensor saps whatever fun the game may have to feel like a burden after a while.
Steering is quite simple really and initially feels more advanced than it is. You stand as you would on a snowboard, leaning your torso forward or backward to turn in the according direction, and accelerating is done by leaning yourself forward. To jump, you jump, and tricks are accomplished by kicking and throwing your arms in assorted ways. You’ll be moving along rather slowly at first, bumping into things as you would had you just started snowboarding in real life, and after a few rounds you’ll be better equipped to swoop through courses by virtue of seeing how much to lean and so forth. Therein lies the rub: the game (or perhaps Kinect itself even) isn’t tuned to detect finer movements, so slight leans to adjust your trajectory often go unregistered until you make a much grander motion, which in turn sends your poor avatar careening to certain crashdom. It’s not impossible for the patient, but the degree of patience required is likely too much for most.
None of this is helped in any way by the obnoxiously fake ‘tude the game throws at you every moment, from the stoned surfer narrator to the character design that scrapes the bottom of the barrel of rejected 1990‘s animal mascots. The soundtrack is similarly forced, sounding like a largely forgettable but nonetheless curious artifact of extreme sports culture.
One surprisingly good thing about the game is its menu navigation system, which is snappy, straightforward and generally error-proof. Instead of hovering your hand over a certain menu item for a period of time, hoping that the camera doesn’t misread your movement and flake out, you copy an arm position to get to where you want to go. To advance you keep your arm up in the air, navigate choices by holding your arm out in either direction, and to go back you hold both up and out. It’s something of a workout, but you can’t argue with its fast and accurate results.
Adrenalin Misfits is a slightly dull and thematically obnoxious snowboarding game that suffers from a bad case of launch-itis. Kinect's potential for snowboarding games is immense and we strongly believe that one day an amazing one will come screaming down the slopes, and hopefully this game will help show those developers what not to do to make that happen.