Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sports Island Freedom Review

When the Kinect launched it was fair to say that only titles published by Microsoft Game Studios got any attention for the first few weeks at least. Even today the Kinect market is dominated by the studio that created it, except for perhaps a few titles such as Child of Eden. One of the launch titles, and in my opinion the best one due to my two left feet and inability to be good at Dance Central, is Kinect Sports. This game instantly proved to me why the Kinect is better than the Wii and Move by taking a formula used multiple times on the Wii especially and improving it tenfold.

The moment Konami decided to port Sports Island Freedom from the Wii to a motion version on the Kinect it was going to be tough. Going from not even the best Wii Sporting game to coming up against the best motion sports game I've played would be hard. It is safe to say that while this certainly isn't the best or even the worst sports title (MotionSports takes that title), there are just so many issues dragging the experience down. When the frustration from the menu builds up before getting into the main game then you can just tell it wasn't going to be an overly pleasant experience.


Sports Island Freedom isn't a bad game to look at. The developers have gone for a very similar graphical style to Kinect Sports with Xbox Live Avatars and a cartoon world making up the entire game. With more sports available it is nice to see that every sport has a unique location to play in and a fair amount of detail has been put into the background of each. A nice and colouful palette makes up for the obvious lack of effects that add to the overall experience.

One disappointing area is the animations of the avatars. Not only do they not look good at all, the representation of your movements is poorly copied and often leads to frustration when the controls punish you for not making pinpoint movements. The fact that the game fails to expertly read your movements and doesn't allow for this in the game means the fun sporting feeling to this title is diminished. The menus are also poorly presented and provide the ultimate level of frustration as a terrible design layout refuses to make getting into any game easy.

There is minimal and basic sound effects for all sports as well as a nice soundtrack in the menus. Nothing spectacular is made of the music and will leave a bit to be desired with nothing but your stock standard sound effects. The overall conclusion consumers will feel just by looking and listening to Sports Island Freedom is the lack of fine detail and effort put into making this the best game possible. The package feels rushed and not enough work has been put into nice animations or faster response time. Even the lack of a better menu system shows how rushed this job was.


The one big advantage Sports Island Freedom has over Kinect Sports is choice. The game boasts an impressive selection of ten activities: tennis, beach volleyball, boxing, kendo, dodgeball, paintball, figure skating, mogul skiing, snowboard cross and archery. This is compared to only six sports (counting Track & Field as a single sport) in Kinect Sports. Having the choice should let Sports Island Freedom be competitive in the market, but the issues that plague every single sport just leave too much to be desired. The lag is simply terrible and makes games such as dodgeball unplayable due to the avatar not reacting quickly to your own movements. Other games are made easy such as again Dodgeball with automatic lock on when throwing, yet Paintball takes a FPS approach and has no lock on, making trying to hit anyone frustrating and nigh on impossible. The balance is out of whack and the game suffers greatly for it.

For those who are able to cope with the lag and frustrating gameplay, there is quite a bit to complete in the game. Apart from the single events there is also championships and other trophies to win by completing events that require you to play every sport or a variety of them. These do provide a bit of replay value, but the irritating menus and general frustration that I can't seem to remove when playing Sports Island Freedom doesn't give you the motivation to continue going. There is multiplayer but it is basically an idle mode as no one plays it and you will almost find it impossible to get into a game unless you and some friends organise to have a party night playing Sports Island Freedom. There are better Kinect games out there though..


The potential in this title is there and perhaps a sequel could fix up the issues that are simply ruining what could challenge Kinect Sports. Even if they only added one or two new sports yet fixed up all the issues that inhabit the current events, this would be a solid title. Being one of the first titles out it showed some promise but definitely gave all studios an idea of what to do to make a good Kinect title. Clean, crisp menus that are easy to navigate are vital, as are responsive controls that minimise as much lag as possible. It was disappointing to see this title fall into the disregard bin, but hopefully the developers don't give up and put out a sequel which can hopefully resolve some issues of Sports Island Freedom!

Graphics - 5.5/10
Sound - 4.5/10
Gameplay - 2.5/10
Overall - 4/10