Published on September 8th, 2013 | by G. Bargas, Managing Editor
Freefall Racers Kinect Review
Publisher: Deep Silver
Platforms: Xbox Kinect
Release Date: September 4, 2013
Review Notes: A game code was provided for review purposes.
The Xbox Kinect has seen its fair share of “Kinect Required” games. These games are ones made for the Xbox 360 that aren’t simply labeled for use with the motion controlled sensor just because they support voice commands. Some of the most notable Kinect games include Fruit Ninja, Kinect Party, The Gunstringer, and now, Freefall Racers.
Freefall Racers may seem like a simple flying squirrel racing title available on Xbox Live Arcade, but the things it does right make it soar above its rodent-free competition. The game includes traditional racing ventures: The Circuit, Single Race and Time Trial. The modes can be taken on in single player, or two players with split-screen.
To race, the game creates a “lane” in the air, but gives players more than enough room to race comfortably — think of it as an air road. Just make sure you have a enough space in order to make this happen. If you are worried about the performance of the game, fear not. The Unreal Engine does a great job propelling the game along, and the cel-shaded cartoon look creates the perfect atmosphere for these soarin’ squirrels.
One reason you might want a bit of space to spread your wittle wings is due to how you control your slowly plummeting racer. Races start out by diving into a free fall from a cliff and speeding into deep jungle valleys or towering rock canyons. Spreading your arms to your side, as if you were spreading your own wings, is how you control your character: Pulling your arms in closer to your body delivers an all-out dive. Swaying through small enclosures becomes a smooth task when flying.
Need to cut someone off and deliver a Homing Missile (Where does a squirrel store a missile anyhow?)? Simply kick out your leg to fire off one of these bad boys. Need a boost? The squirrel gauge located at the bottom left corner of the screen gets filled by collecting pink acorns, or following perfect flight paths during a race. When its time to use this boost, simply nod your head forward and a pink stream will send you zipping ahead.
This is one area in which the game delivers top-notch, fine-tuned Kinect controls. As compared to the many of the Kinect titles we have played, Freefall Racers has some of the most precise and easy-to-use controls available with the sensor. From narrow ice-ways to bumpy river caverns, making these turns would be tough on a standard controller, but Freefall Racers makes gliding through treacherous terrain easy and fun.
“This isn’t flying, this is falling with style!”—Buzz Lightyear
Much like any other family targeted arcade racer, the game features different skills and applies them to characters according to personality. For example, the character Shadow bares ninja clothing, showing nothing but mystical eyes and agile talent. He of course has the sharpest amount of turning for skilled maneuvers. However, his speed and acceleration are not the most explosive in the mix. The character is further balanced having his boost as yet another tool in his tactile kit.
New characters are unlocked over the course of the game. Much like other racers, new tracks are also unlocked as you play. I’ve said a lot of good praise for Freefall Racers, but if there was one thing that twisted my acorns, it was the representation of levels and circuits.
While most racing titles mix up the difficulty and trophy cups, Freefall Racers employs redundancy. Many levels are repeated, and some difficult ones bundled together for tougher classes. For the first portion of the game it feels like you play the same level, if not in similar settings, over and over again. It doesn’t necessarily work against the games overall presentation, however it doesn’t really help it either.
One smaller gripe about the game could be seen in the restart points. Crashing into trees or giant rock pillars leaves you slamming to a complete halt. Starting over often pulls you back further than the actual progress made. This would be a problem if you weren’t susceptible to the same obstacle again. There was one point in the game where I was blazin’ the airwaves in the Mine Bender, for example. Holding first place was a grueling effort, which was annoyingly cut short after slamming into some rocks, then doing it again on repeat.
This wouldn’t be so bad except for dropping me to dead last and not being able to catch up even with the use of boosts and power-ups.
Freefall Racers is a fresh and fun arcade experience. There are small hinderances in the games restart points after a crash, but nothing a patch can’t fix. The music is cheery and bubbly, and there is plenty of content to unlock. From squirrels like Sgt. Squirrel who bombs the hill, to others like Unna, a unicorn-esque flyer, the game shares all archetypes.
From racers to courses, the game even balances out the enjoyment with a nice achievement list. The controls of the game are precise and are one of the high-flying standouts. It’s sad that the game releases towards the twilight years of the Xbox 360 Kinect.
As a personal plea to the developer, bring this title back for a sequel with a few more levels and throw in a little voice acting, and you’ve got yourself an even nuttier time.