Michael Phelps: Push the Limit Review (Xbox 360)
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Kinect games have been hit or miss since the Xbox 360 motion sensing peripheral was unleashed on the gaming masses last year. But now, gaming companies are starting to take risks with the Kinect technology.
Blitz Games dives in with Michael Phelps: Push the Limit, a rather fun title that does a good job recreating the feeling of reaching for that wall at the end of a race without the water.
In a smart move by the game designers, you start off with a rather simple tutorial that explains all the movements and nuisances of this title -- you'll need it. It’s not for the faint of heart -- or the weak of arms. You will be working your upper body quite a bit in this game.
There are four different swim strokes: front crawl, breast, butterfly and backstroke. Each has its own level of difficulty.
I found it quite difficult to master the backstroke, which also is most physically taxing of the four strokes. The front crawl seems to be the easiest to accomplish with success.
Once you are ready to dive in for real, there are several modes offered, including head-to-head against a friend and would-be Phelps, a three-year career mode and a rather shallow online mode.
When you start a race, you will first be prompted to pump up the crowd by thrusting your arms into the air one at a time. As you do, a meter fills, which will come in handy later as you “push the limit.”
While it is kind of cheesy to do such a thing — I don’t recall Phelps “raising the roof” before any of his Olympic swims — it is good to warm up your wings for the trauma that is about to befall them.
Next, you’ll have to assume the diving position by reaching down to almost touch your toes and wait for a gun that seems like forever to fire.
When it finally does, you rise with your arms out at an angle. The sensor does a great job reading the angle of your arms. Too high and you dive too far. Too low and you plop in the water like a dead fish. But once in the water, a meter tells you whether your strokes are too close or too far apart. A beep is offered as a sort of metronome to keep you in rhythm.
As you get close to the finish line, depending upon how pumped up you made the crowd, you will reach the “push the limit” line, a demarcation where you get a little extra boost by, conveniently, yelling “boost.”
It’s a nice little reward for pumping up the crowd before the event.
This is the real meat of this title and one of the few Kinect sports titles that offer such a mode.
There are a lot of customization tools at your disposal to make a swimmer in your own image, from speedos and hair caps to hair color and gender.
The first year is rather straight-forward and simple with easy controls — you won’t have to make the turns manually. In the second year, things get a little more complicated in the pool. In the third and final year, the game is at its most challenging.
Each season progresses the same way, with 10 qualifying races where you’ll have to finish in the top three to move on to the Annual Event, where you will square off with some of the best swimmers in the world, including Phelps.
It doesn’t take long to progress through these seasons and unless you are an achievement hound, there is little reason to play through a career again. Still, it is enjoyable and challenging.
Multiplayer with a friend is a blast. The only quibble is the difficulty to tell who is in the lead and by how far. Then again, when you are actually in a pool, it is hard to tell your race position.
Online is nothing special and rather barren. There weren’t a lot of people to challenge when I entered the lobby.
If you are looking for a fun Kinect game with few bells and whistles, or are simply a fan of Michael Phelps, this is a pretty good title to check out.
Like most Kinect games, however, the price point of $49.99 is a bit high for what you get in this package.
Learning curve: steep at first, but once you get a feel of the strokes, it becomes much easier.
Control Scheme: Move your arms ... a lot.
Visuals: There are a few hiccups, like the disjointed arms of Phelps at the beginning of the race that makes him look like he belongs on the set of a “Ring” movie, but mostly goof.
Audio: Generic music, crowd noise and sound effects.
Customization: Lots of ways to create your swimmer. After that, nothing.
Value: At $49.99 it’s probably a bit steep for most gamers.
+ Detailed graphics, Surprising Depth, Movements Translate Perfectly
- Your Rotator Cuffs Will Hate You, Lack of Depth, Price Too High
Bottom Line: If you like swimming — or Michael Phelps — and don’t look so good in a speedo or don’t want top consume 6,000 calories a day, this is the game for you.
Score: 5.5 (Average) -- This is the quintessential average game. There are good spots, there are bad spots. You might love this game, then you might hate it. In the end, you'll just feel like it could have been so much more. This is the type of game where the game modes have redeeming value, but they just don't go far enough. These games may be worth the price of admission for some, but really they're not for most.