Summer Stars review
Ah, the Olympics. Not long now. Barely two months away in fact. So where is the official obligatory tie in game? Not released until the end of this month. So it will be no surprise that when Summer Stars hits the shelves it should sell a fair amount of copies due to the hysteria building towards the Olympics, and a lack of gaming goodness to go with it. That being said Deep Silver have produced a fun, if flawed, experience with Summer Stars. It boils down two two things. If you have Kinect – don’t use it, if you haven’t got it, I pray you haven’t bought it for this title.
Getting the negatives out of the way first, the problem lies within the lazy programming of the developers in regards to Kinect detection and ultimately, representing you within the game. It takes an age to get your runner to a full sprint; even if Usain Bolt was running in front of your Kinect he’d have zero chance of beating his own record using the motion sensor hardware. In the track events it just gets you moving on a generic almost pre-scripted start, suggesting that the developers couldn’t be bothered with tracking the beginning of a players frantic on the spot sprinting. If you stop mid race – your runner will slow down precisely six seconds after you stopped. Pole vaulting shouldn’t be attempted if you value your sanity, and the less said about fencing the better. Simply put, Kinect has been an afterthought during development and from here on out will never be mentioned again.
That being said, reviewing the title as it stands as a controller game is a lot nicer experience and even more so when with friends. Summer Stars may not be an official Olympics game but it covers a whopping 18 disciplines including most track and field, archery, downhill mountain biking and trampoline (my personal favourite). While the track events are simple in terms of wiggling the analogue stick left and right, clever implementation for starting the sprint or getting the posture correct on the long jump add a level of technicality that rewards when done perfectly. The high jump for instance is a simple yet intricate three stage manoeuvre that imitates real life in a way that feels right when you do it and elates when done well. Off track events such as the trampoline and diving require a rhythm style mini game to be completed, the harder the move the more demanding the rhythm gets. Fencing on the other hand is a simplistic affair of dodge, parry and exploit, and while the earlier competitions offer little challenge, the cat and mouse element of it gathers a great deal of tension in the later cups. Downhill biking is a diluted affair that offers short thrills providing you don’t attempt to go all Matt Hoffman with the advanced tricks. They take a lot of patience and nigh on perfect timing to get right while offering nothing but gloating value to your progress. Archery is another highlight as taking into account wind and an allotted time in which to take your shot provides plenty of nail biting moments.
The career mode is split over one hundred challenges spread across the eighteen different disciplines. As well as the regular events you get head to head specials, as well as events where restrictions have been placed upon you. Winning these garner valuable XP. That’s right, Summer Stars allows you to improve your two players, one boy and one girl, so that as you get better with the techniques of each sport you are also able to unlock ‘skills’ which may be passive or active. Skills such as faster sprinting, longer throwing, with bonuses if you perform a perfect run up or plant and so on. While not strictly fair at the beginning (you’ll never beat any world records without the skills) it does give the game a lot of legs for it’s single player mode. As does the mini story that unfolds against your two Protégée’s as they garner success throughout their careers. While the cut scenes are laughable in terms of graphical quality and character movement, it still offers a welcome break from the pad bashing of the events and raises a wry smile every time.
Handball is good – tennis is better
Nothing beats Summer Stars though than some good old fashioned local four player multiplayer and it doesn’t disappoint, though what does is a lack of online play. A missed opportunity that could seal it’s fate with the upcoming official title, Deep Silver have missed a trick that could prove to be very detrimental in long term sales. Had they provided the same multiplayer offering online that is available off, many who were proficient may not rush out to buy the official London 2012 title when it comes out if it means starting from scratch again. Still for it’s low price point, Summer Stars is a fun title that can provide hours of entertainment with its single player and full nights of riotous laughter with friends. Just don’t give yourself an aneurysm and plug in Kinect!