Smoots Summer Games – Xbox One Review
Multi-sport arcade games have always thrown up some titles that have been classics over the years. From the original arcade game Track & Field, through Daley Thompson’s Decathlon to modern classics such as Wii Sports, we’ve enjoyed fun and frantic action, while ruining the odd joystick and controller buttons in the process. Can Smoots Summer Games join the classics and get a medal, or does it not even make the final?
At first glance you can’t help but notice the similarity here to a Wii Sports title, but unfortunately the characters just don’t have the same charm. The Smoots are basic cartoon people but with very little in the way of dynamic facial expressions which instantly rob them of any potential for humour, which should be essential for a fun family title like this. Also, to their disadvantage is the fact that they don’t have much in the way of legs, being all body with a couple of little stumps with feet on. This is an important fact when so many of the events involve running, so you don’t get much impression of athleticism as the participants scuttle along without really looking like they are sprinting.
The game is split into three modes, all pretty standard stuff, so we know they are things that will work in principle without breaking new ground. The main mode is Championship, where you take on the AI or your friends in the different events, in either a Pentathlon, Heptathlon or Decathlon, depending on how long you want the game to last. The Practise mode is handy for learning the game and honing your technique before you take on the AI or your mates. The Challenge mode was the least satisfying, mainly because of the frustration of dealing with the game’s shortcomings. You have to take part in a series of events, and only get to take on the next event if you reach the required standard. Ah, just like Track & Field you say, which would be spot on, apart from having to put money in the machine to play! It took me quite a few attempts to get a decent enough score at some of the trickier events, and to be honest if it wasn’t for the purposes of the review I may have given up on this mode a bit sooner and gone back to much better Championship mode.
The Championship mode which is the real meat of the game, is played with some good old fashioned button bashing, its all nice and simple, just one or two buttons are needed, which is great as it makes it instantly accessible to all levels of player, not much skill is needed in terms of mastering controls, its just all down to speed and timing. The comparisons to the previously mentioned Track & Field are obvious, as it pays homage to the daddy of this genre with the same control method in the throwing and jumping events whereby the speed meter locks at a certain point leaving you to press the button just the right length of time to get the 45 degree angle for the best throw/jump. I’ve always wondered why its always 45 degrees, whether for long jump, shot put or javelin, etc, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense but at least you know where you are with it.
The simplicity of the controls is a big plus point, to run just mash the X button and try to maintain that speed until the end of the race without your hand cramping up, which to be honest is half the fun. The problem is theres a discernible button lag with this game, which is not a problem in a straight sprint, but when you have to combine actions such as in the hurdles, you need to anticipate the jump and press the button well before the character on screen needs to jump, or they just bundle into the hurdles and fall. This is very frustrating and takes some enjoyment away from the game, but thankfully when you get onto the swimming events and use the thumbsticks for control instead of the buttons, all the lag disappears. This makes these events easier to win, but of course leaves the game as a whole unbalanced.
There are different difficulty levels available, but the don’t have any effect on your character, just on the AI, so the higher the difficulty you play on, the better the performance of the AI characters. On the easy mode, you can expect to sit through a hell of a lot of foul jumps/throws so you never really know how well you’re doing until the very end of the event.
Local multiplayer is the mode that will give the most enjoyment in Summer Games, as like Wii Sports you can get friends and family round to stage your own mini Olympiad for household bragging rights. Be warned though, things can get very competitive, but it’ll be a lot of fun.
Smoots Summer Games isn’t a particularly expensive game, so if you’re looking for a sporty party game for your friends and family to gather round and play, its worth buying, but if you’re going to mainly play on your own against the AI (there is no online play available), then I couldn’t really recommend it as the fun is short lived and the games shortcomings will show after about half an hour. My advice would be to wait for the Tokyo 202 game next year.
Developer: Kaneda Games
Many Thanks to JanduSoft for the review copy