The EyeToy is an innovative little bugger with its ability to get gamers into the action, but until now, with the release of EyeToy: AntiGrav
, it has been about little more than mini-games. Developer Harmonix has taken the peripheral and made it come of age with the webcam's first true game in the shape of a hoverboard racing title. What we have as a result is one of the most innovative games to come out for a peripheral besides Karaoke Revolution
(another Harmonix title), but when compared to other boarding games out there like SSX 3
, this genre has a lot more growing room.
Hoverboarding is the extreme sport of the future and the racers shoot through courses with lots of jumps to fly over and rails to grind on. In the regular racing the controls are extremely simple: just move your head. The EyeToy tracks the player's head's position within a circle and the location determines how far the player turning or whether he is ducking or (by moving up from ducking) jumping into the air. Imagine the head as being the top of an analog stick and that's all there is to it. The hands can stop the player by moving out to the left and right, but other than that it's just about the regular steering.
After hitting one of the special jumps in the game the hoverboarder can get completely airborne and sail along, trying to fly through hoops for extra points along the way. While flying along, the head completely controls the boarder's movement by controlling left and right as well as up and down movement. When grinding on the rails there are blocks to jump over and hurdles to duck underneath and once again it's the head that controls it all.
As a purely objective point this head control of the game is an innovative, but by playing it, it gets much, much better. Unlike all the other EyeToy games out there, AntiGrav doesn't have any grainy video footage of the gamer in the game itself. It's just a boarder on screen like every other game and there's a status screen on the bottom right that shows the current head and hand positions as a double-check, but it's practically unnecessary. What's so cool about what's going on is that the game starts to feel real with subtle movements making an on-screen character get through the world.
As a result of this sense of connection, AntiGrav becomes a game that truly makes you duck and move as if you were that person on the hoverboard. Ducking under the hurdles and flying through the air is a pretty incredible experience and one that's highly recommended for anyone who's tired of using their EyeToy to wash windows or smack enemies or any of the other lookalike mini-games out there.
With the fluid sense of movement that makes videogames cross into some new territory it's disappointing that the rest of the game is a pretty average experience with plenty of tricks that have been explored in better ways for other boarding games. Starting out there's the trick system that is comprised of seven different possible movements: an arm shooting left or right, the head moving up or down, an arm moving up from bottom to top on the left or right, and both arms moving up at the same time. After getting some air these movements can be linked up for some combos. It's incredibly simple and as such pales when held up to the rest of the racing.
After nailing a regular jump there will be a sequence of moves that appear on the bottom of the screen and by getting all of them in order the racer will pull off a special combo. The instructions are randomly generated and there's just one super combo per character so pulling off the move just feels like going through the motions. It also requires a good amount of air time to do without crashing and since getting three out of the four moves barely has any reward it's all or nothing. With so many other more interesting trick systems in other games it's a shame that this one is so incredibly shallow.
While the jumping skills can be done whenever possible, the most important skill is that of waving the arms in the air with precision. While on the rails (which players only get off when they end) there are icons that can be hit by reaching out with one's hands. There are groups of them and players get extra points or turbo boost by nailing the whole group. The strategy is really just reflexes, but by getting a special combo of gear-shaped icons the rail switch will move and players can change their course.
Players who are familiar with Harmonix's previous games Frequency and Amplitude (both highly recommended) will be in comfortable territory on the rails. The combos start out easy enough, but by the last course in the game they require some complicated arm movements in order to win the big points and get the glory. The jumps may be on auto-pilot, but there's no way to bluff through the rails and aside from the steering controls this is one of the best elements of the game.
One of the most disappointing aspects of AntiGrav is that there are only five courses in the whole game. These are split up into slight variations for Speed and Style races where players race other boarders or just try to nab a high score with lots of aerial tricks and combos on the rails, but this is still a small number to play with. To be fair, the courses have a large amount of alternate paths that will take a fair amount of exploration to fully discover and each one will take several minutes to go through so this is not a quick and easy affair.
Since the courses need to be navigated with some lightning quick hand-eye reflexes as well as anticipating some of the track, AntiGrav has much more to offer than the regular EyeToy games. After working up through the first four courses, getting to the Black Rock Ridge course is like a big, fat dessert for the whole game. In a nod to the snowboarding games out there, this course shoots the players off of some huge jumps as they go from the top of a mountain to the bottom. At this point the game rewards players with action that gets epic as everything gets faster and bigger with some extra complicated combos to hit
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