Review: Winter Stars

Review: Winter Stars

Should you bother hitting the slopes, the ice rink or fly through the sky on new Kinect game Winter Stars, or should you simply stay at home and put your feet up instead?

Winter Stars is, as you may have guessed, a game about winter sports. Bob-sled, para-skiing, figure skating, you name it, it’s pretty much in there. The thing is, these winter sports aren’t particularly fun to play – while the game itself has some good ideas, it rapidly becomes frustrating due to using far too many gestures at once, Kinect not picking up you doing these gestures and then your performance ultimately suffers as a result of this.

At its core, Winter Stars is about you, the team of ‘Winter Stars’ competing in a wide variety of cups across a career mode, delightfully taking the time out to complete different challenges as you go along. This career mode even comes with a storyline, that, alas, is so cringe-worthy my face is now permanently prematurely lined from listening to some of the awful, awful dialogue these guys come out with. It’s so damn cheesy it should of taken place in an Edam factory in the land of cheese. Couple this with some truly diabolical facial animations and character models (and terrible lip syncing) and you’ve got a storyline that probably should of been banished straight to the fires of hades right from the get go.

Not as Fun As It Looks. Trust Me.

The question is, really, did a game like this actually need a storyline? Not really – it’s about Winter Stars competing in mini-game like sporting events. I don’t particularly care if there’s a douchey guy who wants to snowboard and he has a chum who wants to para-ski to impress a girl he’s met a grand total of once. It just screams totally unnecessary at every turn and it only serves as a means to catch your breath between events.

The events themselves are pretty varied and diverse, but will require extreme skill and patience to perfect. The one thing that bothers me in particular about this game is the massive amount of gestures each event requires you to remember and perform – for a game like Winter Stars, which seems catered towards family and smaller children, it really feels as if there’s going to be too much of a struggle for them to like this game, as it’ll just be too hard to play. For example, the para-skiing event requires you to not only wave your arms up in the air, but also requires leaning, bringing your arms down to ascend, tilting your arms up and downwards for steering and also has the option for flinging your arms forward to activate adrenaline and go a bit quicker. This is all while you’re trying desperately not to land on rocks and rapidly turns your arms into a flailing nightmare-ish monstrosity that will cause abject damage to anyone who happens to walk in front of you as you gallivant around your living space like a demented, arm-waving lunatic.

It’s a shame. Really, with a more simplistic approach and a more ‘kid-friendly’ style of gaming, Winter Stars probably could of been relatively decent for a minigame or two. Instead what you’re getting here is an overly complex sporting simulator that will leave you quite frustrated and struggling to win races, mainly because you’ve forgot all of the gestures you need.

 

Cup matches, where you’re tasked with playing through four events in order, are beyond annoying in this game. Come first in the first race? Great, lots of points for you! Came fourth in the next one? Not so brilliant, but you may struggle back.  Third in the next one? Oh dear, not looking good. Get my drift? If you fail a race in the cup, there’s no way to go back without starting the whole thing over again from the very beginning, meaning you’ll often get to the last event, miss out on first place by a smidgeon, and then have to go back from the very start as you can’t move on to the next event unless you come first. I had to play the first event four times before I got past it, due to the massive learning curve and excessive gesture remembering the game threw at me. It rapidly gets very annoying, I can tell you.

As you play these matches, Winter Stars will allocate you with experience points, lending some RPG-levelling up style mechanics to this sporting simulator.  These are generally quite useless and only serve as a distraction from winning the race. I mean, why would you bother doing tricks for experience when you’ve got to win the race, and doing said tricks slows you down to almost tortoise-levels of speed? They’re there if you want them though, and best of luck to any who tries for experience while also trying to win an event.

Graphically, there’s not much to see here either. I don’t know what it is about the characters but their faces just look strange – particularly the lead guy, who seems to have such scary eyes he should be in the next Resident Evil. Tracks themselves generally don’t look that brilliant either – although, to be fair, there’s not a lot you can do with a snowy slope.

Overall, Winter Stars isn’t probably worth your time unless you’re a winter sports fanatic who prefers not to get cold when doing it. A terrible storyline, wonky controls and a difficult gesture system all combine to make the experience frustrating and nerve-grinding, but there may be a few times you can just go out and do some snowboarding without wanting to beat yourself to death with the nearest inanimate object.

Score: 5.5/10

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