Winter Stars begins with you taking part in a Downhill Skiing event and ending with an accident of monumental proportions as the character on screen hits the snow face first. Such an exciting beginning is definitely a good start. On a personal note, I enjoy being thrown into the (limited) action because it gets you into the mood for gaming straight away. After such a high octane episode, hopefully Winter Stars can maintain this kind of involvement throughout.
There is a somewhat involving career mode on offer. You take on the role of coaching a team who are trying beat their arch rivals the Black Knights. The reasonable attempt at a plot has you taking part in a series of cups which, as you progress, help you to improve the abilities of your team members. Each member of your team excels in a particular discipline. Being successful allows you to upgrade your team members, which in turn makes them even better the next time they take part in an event. Winter Stars attempt at a storyline helps introduce you to the mechanics of the various sports and overall works fairly well, even if the voices are a little repetitive. The actions of your team-mates actual have consequences. If you play unfairly and jostle your competitors you may have a ‘Fairplay’ stripe deducted, which in turn slows down your adrenaline charge. Adrenaline is a key component of Winter Stars because it can be used to give yourself an energy boost at important moments.
You can compete against the opposition over a series of events that include Biathlon, Bobsled, Curling, Downhill Skiing, Figure Skating, Paraskiing, Short Track, Ski Freeride, Ski Flyng, Snowboard Cross and Snowmobile. There’s a good range of sports on offer, so everyone should be able to find something they are good at or at least enjoy. The different sports have varying inputs, whether it’s shaking the Wii Remote to climb up the hills in the Biathlon or turning the Wii Remote to it’s side when participating in the Bobsleigh. It’s a positive range of control mechanisms which break up the play especially in the Career Mode. However, the controls suffer from a lack of consistency, especially in the Figure Skating. Sometimes your character doesn’t do what you want them to do no matter how hard your replicating the correct action. It’s a frustrating aspect because the sports within Winter Stars can become quite engrossing if played without any problems. Although it is quite funny seeing your character fall over just like in real life.
There are a few multiplayer options available which are mostly variations of the single player game. You can play a friend in a split screen cup competition and Winter Stars also makes use of the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, should you be lucky enough you find someone. You have your standard competition mode where four players can play. There is also a Capture the Flag mode, and Coin Tornado which requires you to collect as many coins as possible on the track. In Fun Race, you need to collect items hidden in boxes that will help you towards victory while Rocket Race is a straightforward race involving rockets. These multiplayer games are quite fun to begin with but there isn’t enough involvement or fun to keep you coming back for more. There is an interesting ‘Family Mode’ available where your controls are simplified. For example, in the steering disciplines the computer does it for you. Whether this is a good inclusion is up for debate, it obviously makes Winter Stars easier to play but it removes the competitive edge as you can, in some cases, just glide to victory without any noticeable input.
The graphics are pretty poor for a Wii game at this stage of the consoles lifecycle. The characters themselves wouldn’t look out of place on a 9-10 year old console so this is quite disappointing because this low quality of graphics is present throughout. The backgrounds are very plain and simple, which would be expected in a winter sports game, but Winter Stars could have had a few stand out picturesque moments. The tutorials and menus are a little hard to navigate because you have to read very small white letting on moving/flashing backgrounds, so the tutorial is not the easiest you’ll come across. There isn’t a great deal of sound to speak of, the actors voices are ok, the Career mode dialogue is adequate, whilst the in game announcer does help involve you in the proceedings.
Winter Stars could have been a very good sports sim, but instead it produces an average performance with hints of potential shining through which are let down by poor presentation and unacceptable graphics. The Career mode is better than expected and will take some time to complete, so if you enjoy winter sports and don’t mind poor graphics and inconsistent control then Winter Stars should keep you busy, if not quite satisfactorily entertained, over the Christmas period.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Wii code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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