With all the next-gen hoopla, it’s easy to forget about some quality “last gen” games, but for the gamer parent who is looking for some budget-friendly and family-friendly titles, Freefall Racers steps up to the plate to provide a unique Kinect experience at an affordable price. Does its September ’13 release learn from the mistakes of early Kinect games, or is it “too little too late?”
30 Second Review
+ Intuitive controls and Kinect integration
+ Impressive visuals and unique characters
+ Great family game
– Harder levels can be downright punishing
– No licensed characters
It’s About to Get Squirrely
Freefall Racers by Smoking Gun Interactive is a $10 Xbox 360 Kinect game available on the Xbox Live Marketplace. You play as a flying squirrel soaring down a mountain racing other flying squirrels to the bottom. Think Diddy Kong Racing meets SSX. The tracks are very colorful and cover a variety of settings from a tropical mountain to a mining cave.
Powerups can be picked up along the way to provide boosts or slow down your opponents. As you complete races, you unlock additional tracks and characters, each with unique stats and attributes. Each track is beautifully animated and provides a perspective that suits the game well. With your arms out wide, you genuinely get the feeling that you’re soaring through the environment as you control the characters on screen.
Fun for the Whole Family
I had high hopes that Freefall Racers would be a great family game but was concerned that my kids (4.5 and 2.5 years old) might be a shade too young to be able to enjoy it. Further, I’ve had negative Kinect experiences in the past, with some games failing (miserably at times) to track individuals properly. This is especially true when one is twice the size of another, and another is running whimsically in and out of frame like they have the attention span of a 2.5 year-old. I am thrilled to report, though, that FR did an excellent job of tracking players in a variety of configurations with hardly any major hindrances to gameplay. It was clear that the developer took care to ensure the controls were intuitive and forgiving but precise enough that a more skilled player could impose his or her will and achieve the desired outcome. We found ourselves having a blast soaring down the mountain, arms stretched wide to soar high, tucked in to dive bomb, or angled to carve that perfect turn. Both kids were able to quickly adapt to these gesture controls and “dive” right into the game.
We All Have Our Bad Fur Days
I only ran into a few problems in the game, but they may be unique to my family and not problematic for everyone. After the first few tracks, the difficulty ramps up rather suddenly. Tight corridors, sharp turns, and trolling AI opponents left my 4 year-old feeling frustrated and wanting to play something else. Unfortunately, if you hit a wall or obstacle, the game moves you back about 20 meters, which, if you’re in a particularly difficult section of the track, can result in an endless loop of failure until you get it right. This issue was remedied by our reverting back to an easier track, but that also put limits on how many “playable” tracks were available for family play, and based on my game library and backlog, it wasn’t something I was going to tackle solo just to unlock more tracks and characters. That said, the tracks we did play were really fun and immersive. The only other minor detriment to the game was that the characters, while diverse, were somewhat generic and unrelatable. I think the kiddos would have attached to it better if the cast was licensed from a recognizable franchise, be it a popular game or TV show.
The Final Nuts and Bolts
Given the fanfare of the release of the next-gen consoles, Freefall Racers was a welcome addition to my library. The diverse gameplay offers a unique experience that is unlike any other game I’ve played with the family. While I cannot necessarily recommend this to the “hardcore gamer” per se, anyone with kids from 3-12 should seriously consider picking this game up for $10. It’s a must buy if it goes on any kind of sale. While it won’t be in the weekly rotation like some franchise titles, I see us coming back to FR whenever we get that itch to glide through the air in the comfort of our living room. Freefall Racers gets an 8 out of 10.