Typically, when I see a brand name like Red Bull used for a game license, I roll my eyes and set my brain to dismiss. But Crashed Ice isn’t just some marketing cash in, Red Bull actually sponsors and runs the event every year. So the inclusion of Red Bull in the title of the game is actually appropriate, and short of the occasional Red Bull powerup in game, there isn’t any cheesy, forced product placement. Crashed Ice is a solid game that happens to have Red Bull cans floating high in the air at various points in each course. But to understand the game, it’s best to have a little background on the event on which it is based.
Red Bull Crashed Ice is an extreme winter sport that takes 4 dudes in ice hockey gear (sans sticks) and sends them jamming down an ice course laden with hills, jumps, dips, and curves in a race to first. I just learned all that myself, so forgive me for not being an expert. I am here to review the game, not the sport.
Get ready for a workout. Kinect games will always give you a run (jump, crouch, etc.) for your money. Call it a reason to exercise if you want, but Kinect games will always make you work for your win. Crashed Ice is no exception. To propel yourself down the ice, you swing your arms forward and back alternating left and right arms. Leaning your body will turn your rider, crouching and jumping are self-explanatory. You can stumble your opponent by stomping at them as you near them. There are opportunities to catch massive air and then your body movements respond to your skater doing stunts. I couldn’t figure out if the moves were random or if they actually corresponded to the strange things I found my body doing once airborne. This isn’t a negative, as the on screen skater did cooler stuff than what I was doing in my living room.
The controls feel tight, there are no weird gestures to memorize, everything feels natural and intuitive.
Along the course you will find stars that add to your power gauge and give you more speed. Red Bull cans float high above the track and give you a full shot of speed boost.
The races are won with skill and you are rewarded for learning the courses. The downside is that there are only 5. More variety would have been welcome.
Kinect titles have their own look. Xbox Avatars bring a family-friendly cuteness that you can either accept and enjoy, or despise for its lack of hardcore-ness. The upswing to having less demanding character models is that you can draw many more of them and keep the frame rate high. This is what we get with Crashed Ice, the game never tries to do more than it can and produces smooth visuals as a result.
I must say that I loved the interface. As you hover your cursor hand over the menu items, they “ice up” to indicate that you are activating them. It beats the snow out of the standard “fill the circle” model. And the included sound effects of crackling ice really sell it. Bravo.
The music in Crashed Ice is decent, standard fare light metal soundtrack. It fits the intensity of the game well, but some may be put off by it.
The Sound effects on the other hand are over and above what I expected. Everything is here; skates on ice (carving and digging), collisions with walls and overpasses, collecting powerups, the crowd. The effects really drive the experience home and the game is better for them.
A wondrous and simultaneously dangerous aspect of Kinect is it’s ability to get gamers and non-gamers alike off of the couch and into swinging distance of each other’s limbs. Crashed Ice may sport some of the most violent motions in gaming and noses are bound to get crushed as someone crouches next to a vigorously flailing faux skater. Regardless, the side-by-side multiplayer in Crashed Ice is great fun. My whole family was able to jump in and enjoy the experience, from ages 4 to 34. No one got killed during our playtime, which I consider a small miracle. If same screen multiplayer is a factor for you, then consider this mode added value.
Bottom of the Slope
I must say I had a very warm reception to this wintry Kinect experience. I would like more courses to run and maybe some sort of story, rather than singular events, but Crashed Ice is good for an hour or two solo time and full of multiplayer memories of hospital visits and reconstructive surgery waiting to happen.