Gosh. Golly. Wow. Words cannot express quite how terrible this game is. For a word-based based review, this is a bit of a problem.
I’m not going to go in depth here. The very existence of Sports Island Freedom is a waste of time, so I don’t want to waste any more prattling on about how bad it is. Suffice to say: if you inadvertently pick up this game instead of the vastly superior Kinect Sports, take it back to the store immediately. Immediately.
This game represents what the Kinect could become if Microsoft isn’t careful: a home for quick ‘n dirty mini-game compilations that barely work, let alone provide entertainment. In other words, the Wii. Seriously, I’m almost impressed by the banal terror this game has inspired in me.
So why is Sports Island Freedom so bad? Let’s start with the interface. Somehow, Hudson has taken Microsoft’s provided Kinect technology and made it worse. Navigating through screen after screen feels oddly terrible. I can’t quite pin it down: is it the aesthetic? The jerky motion tracking? The annoying and repetitive music? Regardless, it doesn’t exactly get you pumped for whatever you’re about to play.
There are ten sports featured in Sports Island Freedom. You can play them as single events or part of a tournament, and two-player options are available. Online modes are also included, as the back of the box says. In fact, that’s the only bullet point on the back of the box.
So functionality, it’s technically up there with any other motion-based sports compilation. But boy oh boy, my goodness gracious me, it sure does fail hideously and hilariously in the execution.
Take Tennis, for example. The game wants you to mimic throwing a ball into the hair and then hitting to serve. Sounds reasonable, and it seems to work fine. But then your AI opponent (good luck getting a real friend to play this) simply lets the ball sail right past. Or it might not! Who knows with that wacky AI. Seriously, fifty percent of the time I would hit the ball towards my opponent, only to see them not move.
But that’s okay! Because half the time, your own character will do the same thing! Generally, your little avatar person will move their arms around in vague accordance with your own arms… but when a ball nears you, your character will inexplicably lock up, refusing to acknowledge you. Hey, at least it makes things fair, right?
Boxing: I’ve never been all that impressed with Wii or Kinect Sports boxing, but I’m even less keen on the version found here. Again, your motions only seem to be interpreted about half the time. And for half of that time, it will assume your frantic punches are only meant to be light caresses on your opponent’s face. Fun.
Archery: seems pretty simple, right? Just mimic holding a bow in one hand and drawing back the string with your other hand. So why, in order to aim, do I need to aim my bow directly to my right — flat across my chest — in order to do anything? But that’s nothing compared to actually releasing your shot, which I never did quite figure out. I think you’re supposed to pretend that your free hand is suddenly the arrow, and zoom it towards the TV. Or maybe not, because that only worked half the time!
Kendo: this is sword fighting of a sort. The idea is to take measured swipes until you score a blow on your opponent. In Sports Island Freedom, flailing my hands wildly when it said “Go!” worked every time. A game of Kendo lasted about ten seconds. Then I unlocked an achievement called “Kendo Master”. I felt completely satisfied.
One more fun fact: the only way to pause the game is to hit start on a controller or — fun! — move out of the camera’s line of sight. Except it doesn’t pause, ever, when it’s not your turn. And hitting start on the controller doesn’t actually do anything. Oh, and bringing up the Kinect Guide also doesn’t pause it, meaning the AI will continue playing against you.
…Okay, I’m going to stop there. You get the idea: this is a rotting, steaming pile of awful. Do not buy this game. As I said earlier, its sheer existence is borderline offensive, because it’s bringing down the likes of Kinect Sports and other titles that don’t actually suck. This holiday season, I can just see a busy parent rushing into a shop and choosing whatever looks vaguely like a fun sports compilation. And frankly, it pisses me off that crap like this is going to get bought when better games are right within arm’s reach.