When CrossBoard 7 landed on my desk the first thing that went through my mind was â€˜what happened to CrossBoards 1 through to 6?â€™. It turns out, however, that the misleading title is actually a reference to the number of outlandish monsters who are battling one another in an Intergalactic face-off. This is a snowboarding game, believe it or not.
CrossBoard 7 can be described as the result of EAâ€™s SSX having babies with the cartoon show Digimon. The game features a bizarre mix of cartoon monsters with names like Blaizer, Sabre and Pestor who are trying to rule the planetâ€¦ via a boarding tournament. Stranger things have happened however and this mad setting does give way for colourful, fast-paced and oddball antics on the slopes that younger gamers might enjoy.
Despite this setting, though, it is hard to imagine any child being accepting of the early 90â€™s â€˜surfer-dudeâ€™ narration that permeates the entire game. Possibly some younger gamers wonâ€™t mind MC Ricky and his constant â€˜bodacious cowabunga attitudeâ€™ but his out-dated and stereotypical blabbering might drive parents to â€˜accidentallyâ€™ give the game disc to the family dog as a chew-toy.
The audio aside, there lies a much more serious fault in CrossBoard 7. Despite the visuals offering decent frame-rates and an appealing art direction, the Kinect based controls leave a lot to be desired. The game requires you to stand side-on to the TV, as if positioned on a perpendicular snowboard or skateboard. Leaning forward and backwards lets you turn left or right according to which way you are facing, just as if they were riding a physical board. Players can bend their front knee to lean towards the screen and increase their speed and conversely lean away from the TV to slow down. Jumping up and twisting your body lets you perform â€˜gnarlyâ€™ tricks (and possibly dislocate your hip in the process if, like myself, you are nearing thirty).
The controls are intuitive and sound good in theory, but sadly they are often unreliable and most users will find only around 60% of their moves being captured properly. Itâ€™s an unfortunate issue that may plague many of the lower-budget Kinect titles coming out since launch. Itâ€™s a concern that Microsoft should have learnt from Nintendoâ€™s poor (or non-existent) quality control on their range of Wii games.
Despite a decent tutorial that has you contorting your body and getting your balance right, the game yields vastly different results to what you intend while playing. Sometimes leaning to the left might produce an elegant turn and at other times simply stop you dead in your tracks. Breaking in this way is meant to be triggered by turning your whole body to face the TV (as you might stop on a real snowboard). Despite having optimum conditions for the Kinect camera there were often little inconsistencies that made the gameplay frustrating. It doesnâ€™t take a genius to realise that randomly coming to a complete stop in the middle of a race can be fairly detrimental to your placing.
Pulling off tricks in the game is a similar gamble. I started off by leaping around and twisting in mid-air with acrobatic finesse in order to perform impressive stunts. However, after my friend tried it (with a full glass of wine in her hand) we discovered that these same awesome, mind-blowing tricks can be achieved by doing a lazy jig on the spot. Things started to get really awkward when the game introduced power items and weapon upgrades. Being able quickly boost or shoot a missile is a nice touch but for some reason the developers decided to have them triggered by raising your front leg. Considering all of the leaning and jumping players are doing, accidentally letting off a homing projectile is frustratingly easy to do. At other times, when you really need to activate them, they suddenly prove impossible.
Itâ€™s a shame, as the game has so much potential. On top of snowboarding, the game has a great variety of environments - including desert canyons, free-fall gliding sections and even large areas of water that you can ride over via hover-boards. There are 7 (thereâ€™s that number again) varied game modes, bucket loads of unlockable items and a welcome split-screen two-player multiplayer option. Even the over-the-top characters and vibrant graphics indicate that a lot of effort has gone into the presentation of the game. The raw ingredients for a fun, fast-paced, high-adrenaline racer that the Kinect sorely needs are all in place. But sadly CrossBoard 7 is ultimately let down by a lack of fine-tuning in the motion-control and gameplay department. Although it might keep the kids entertained for a few hours over the Holidays, as the name unintentionally states, the end result is more likely to make the player feel cross and bored x7.
Note: this game is also known as â€˜Adrenalin Misfitsâ€™ in other parts of the World