A hazy shade of winter

We’ve certainly seen a slew of motion-control sports games of late—with some definitely more worthwhile experiences than others. The latest publisher to hop on the trend? Deep Silver, the folks who turned the zombie-blasting genre on its head a couple months ago with Dead Island. But can they bring that same innovation to another genre that seems to have hit a brick wall in terms of ingenuity via little-known German developer 49Games?

With Winter Stars, we do indeed see a couple of interesting differences from other motion-based sports offerings, such as a branching story path that changes depending on your performance in various cups revolving around the main winter-themed sports. And most of these events are new to the genre, as you’ll see bobsled, figure skating, and biathlon events complement downhill skiing, which seems to be in every motion-control game franchise at this point. The story follows a team of newcomers to the world of winter sports—and their hard-luck coach, who was once one of the best in the world when it came to downhill skiing before an unfortunate accident. Now, he’s trying to turn these kids into winners and return to glory the only way he knows how; the whole thing’s got some Cool Runnings–style charm.

Unfortunately, that’s about the only enjoyment you’ll find in Winter Stars. The character models look atrocious—and that awfulness is only trumped by the abysmal voice acting in the cutscenes that push the story forward between cup events. Add this to the absolutely hideous gameplay mechanics, and you’ve got a brutal combination on your hands.

The event controls are relatively simple, but they’re either far too unresponsive or extremely sensitive. This means that if you play other motion-based sports games, it’ll take some time to get used to the minimal amount of movement required to turn your bobsled or weave down the slopes. It’s a shame that the controls are so poorly implemented, because Winter Stars really shows the potential to make sports like figure skating—which I normally wouldn’t be caught dead watching—actually seem enjoyable. Well, if the controls had actually worked, that is.

Another disappointing aspect? The pacing. Even though the cups are comprised of the four sports, you’re still sent back to the main menu screen after each event, where you have to choose to continue. While some might appreciate this if they need a bathroom break or something, only those with severe bladder-control issues need this many breaks in the action. This even happens after tutorials or multiplayer matches, so it really prevents players from getting into any sort of rhythm.

Winter Sports is a valiant effort by an obscure developer, but it feels unnecessarily rushed to compete against the other motion-based sports games of the season like MotionSports: Adrenaline and Kinect Sports: Season Two. This one definitely could’ve used some more time for some polish—or, at the very least, to make sure the controls actually work. It’s frustrating, because you can definitely see the potential here—but as it is, Winter Sports is barely worthy of the bargain bin.

SUMMARY: Tries to differentiate itself via its story mode, but in the end, it’s just another generic motion-control sports entry.

  • THE GOOD: A story mode woven into the sporting events
  • THE BAD: The controls, the look, the feel—and everything else
  • THE UGLY: Yet another generic sports game trying to get in on the casual motion-control market—and failing

SCORE: 3.0