Winter Sports 2012: Feel the Spirit (Nintendo 3DS) - Review by Andrew
I'm not a huge sports fan (outside of football) although I do enjoy the Winter Olympics and I can happily spend hours watching the various snowbound events on TV. Transferring these to consoles is nothing new and there have been several similar titles over the years with even Mario and Sonic having their moment in the snow. Publishers RTL are clearly also fans and this 3DS offering is one in a long line of handheld Winter Sports collections. So wrap up and get ready for some Downhill Skiing, Speed Skating and, err, Curling.
Before you even think about heading out into the cold you'll have to select and customise your character. Once you've done this you can begin and there are several different ways you can approach the action: Cup, which involves you attempting to come first in a selection of varied pursuits, the occasionally frustrating Challenge where you'll have to fulfill a range of criteria in each event or, for the less adventurous amongst you, a Single Event. The events themselves are not exactly plentiful and you'll have seven to choose from with four based around skiing. The best of these is the Downhill Ski Cross, which allows you to race at some considerable speed to the bottom of the mountain against a handful of competitors. The remaining are either too difficult (slalom) or too easy (ski Jump) and a little more variety would have been very welcome here. Over on the ice you can take part in the Speedway or the Short Track Racing. Both of these extensively use the 'slipstream' effect and the controls can be a little tricky at first. On the more sedate side of things is the Curling. This also takes a little getting used to but a bit of practice will have you knocking you opponents Stones out of the score area in no time at all.
The seven events here all require very different controls in order to get over the finish line or gain more points than the other competitors. This generally involves a mixture of timing (such as hitting the 'A' button at the correct moment) and releasing power (during the Curling events). There's no need to commit to memory all of these button layouts though as each event is proceeded by a tutorial regardless of how many times you enter the event.
Visually, this isn't the best-looking title on the 3DS especially if you come to it from playing the stunning RE: Revelations, which was released the same day. There's still a nice illusion of speed during the Downhill Skiing though although the landscapes are sparse with few spectators lining the routes. One interesting addition to the games look is the ability to customise your character. This allows you to change not only the physical appearance of your male of female competitor but also what they are wearing. More consumes also become available as the game progresses but wouldn't it have been much easier if Winter Sports simply supported the 3DS's own Mii's?
While the various musical arrangements on offer here are instantly forgettable the sound effects are actually quite good. Downhill skiing is accompanied by the sound of the snow spraying over the mountainside as you attempt to slow down around the sharp corners whilst the Speed Skating features your blades cutting into the ice. There's also some decent commentary in addition to the moans of the sports men and women as they loose control and fall over.
Oddly there's absolutely no call of your stylus as all the events are controlled by the buttons and D-pad. Possibly a first for a sports title and surely the Curling is crying out to be a touch-screen experience.
I'll always try the 3D effect and for some titles it definitely adds some much needed depth to the gameplay. This is not one of those titles and the 3D effect becomes distracting very quickly indeed so take our advice and stick to 2D. As for everything else, both the camera and microphone have been completely ignored. Same really.
While the events on offer here are enjoyable enough, there are just not enough gameplay options for a full commercial title. The absence of a Multiplayer option is also a huge disappointment and if there's one type of game, which benefits from battling it out with 'real' competitors, it's a sports title. On the plus side it's all well put together and the downhill skiing has a real illusion of speed while the various modes do at least offer an element of challenge, for a short time anyway. As we mentioned at the beginning of this review, RTL have been doing this sort of thing for some years now so we can only hope that the next outing addresses the glaring problems of this one.
Pro: Varied Challenges, Downhill Skiing
Con: Not Enough Events, No 'True' Multiplayer
Final score: 4.8