Winter Stars

The Winter Stars Of Our Discontent

Well, maybe just the Winter Stars of mild irritation.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: December 19, 2011
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It feels like there have been games approximating Olympic-style sports for as long as there have been Olympics. Whether it was arcades with quarter gobblers like Konami's Track & Field or at your house with the Commodore 64/Apple II classics Summer Games and Winter Games (and later the ultra cool OP-sponsored California Games) from EPYX, these types of games have come out anew every other year with the reconvening of another summer/winter Olympics. Almost universally, these games have retained the same joystick mangling, rapid button mashing control scheme that spawned the series, much to the delight of controller manufacturers who are ensured a few worn out controllers from enthusiasts of this games.

It'd be fair to say, given the general lack of innovation these games bring to the table, that the games might feel stale to anyone. It's hard to pack much excitement into events that are pretty much QTE situations, right? So I didn't have the highest hopes forWinter Stars from 49studios when it showed up in the mail one day. I find that I need about eighth years between iterations of these types of games before I'm ready for a new one, and it hasn't been quite that long.

Winter Sports offers eleven events that hit both the traditional events (figure skating, bobsled, biathlon) and more "extreme" pastimes (snowmobile, para-skiing) to provide a nice range of games. The single-player portion is wrapped in a very long campaign with a surprising deep (for a winter sports game) storyline that is told through interstitial cutscenes between events. You'll start out with a pretty small team that can only perform in limited events, but as you win more cups and challenges, new members will join with new specializations that'll open up more events. Many of them come from the team lead by your rival, Damien, who seems to something of a douche. The cutscenes alone give you reason to press forward in the campaign.

You'll probably need that added motivation, because it will take quite some time to get through it all. There are 44 challenges and 16 cups standing between you and completion, and while things start out easy, they get noticeably more difficult about a third of the way through. Challenges are one-off events that task you with racing a course and grabbing enough gold coins on the way or other such frivolities, and each event has a "boss battle" that essentially challenges you to make a perfect run in the event to pass. Cups are series of three to eleven events where you compete against 3 other teams and the highest score after the events are over is declared the gold medalist. You have to get a gold medal to unlock the next events, so first is your only option.
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