There must be an entire subculture out there of racing games that I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on. Sure, I knew about things like the Red Bull air racing, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about how intricate the world of motocross is, but the idea of snowmobile racing was something that I hadn’t totally considered to be a thing, even though I enjoyed racing them myself as a kid. So I wasn’t quite sure what to do with Snow Moto Racing: Freedom when it landed in my lap. Still, I’ve never been one to turn my back on a game just because it’s way outside my comfort zone/imagination, so here we go, and there we went.
Snow Moto Racing: Freedom is a great representative (I figure) of what snowmobile racing and entails in the professional circuit. Far from being cut and dry with “go fast that way,” snowmobile courses have the player make there way through a series of target arcs, inflatable and set up in different locations, before finally going through a goal arc. You have to go through each arc, in order, the correct direction, before you can cross the finish line. I found this out early on when I missed the first one, followed the rest of the pack, and came in dead last because I technically never even hit the first post, regardless of my speed moving forward. This whole setup is probably because snowmobiles are an imprecise vehicle and having a closed course with direct lanes would probably be both difficult and dangerous, so it’s more of a freeform course with specific goals in mind. It’s certainly interesting, and you can race in large tournaments, single races or online against other people. The tournaments only unlock if you get a certain ranking on each circuit, so good luck if you wanna go far.
Customization is entirely dependent on your idea of customized. Sure, you can attribute different names, nationalities and appearance features to your racer, but Snow Moto Racing: Freedom tends to keep the frills on such things quite low. Also, you’re bundled into a protective snowsuit 99% of the time, so the only customizable aspect you should worry about is enhancing and upgrading your ride as quickly as possible. However, you can’t hope to get a new vehicle until you race well, so it’s really a “walk before you run” situation. Having better acceleration and handling definitely changes things a bit and makes for the only way to hold a candle in later tournaments, so don’t get too attached to any one mobile unless you’re determined to be that guy trying to compete with a clunker. I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m just saying it’s less fun.
Once you get yourself onto the snow, you being to realize there’s a lot of controls to remember and work out in this game. And I mean a lot. Acceleration is key, but so is throwing on the reverse to help make tight turns and also to back out of walls you’ve crashed into. The turbo button is your friend, but you can only refill the turbo meter by doing stunts, which make up about 7/8th of the total screen of control explanations. There are a lot of ways to do stunts, and I failed in all of them. Some are aerial stunts, some are seated stunts, but there’s not a great way to chain the two varieties together. Additionally, don’t think this’ll turn into a Shaun White or SSX situation: the stunts almost feel like they exist exclusively to help out the turbo meter and that’s it. No long combinations for these racers, you gotta spin in your seat or flip your snowmobile just so you can go faster and that’s IT.
One thing that kind of turned me off about Snow Moto Racing: Freedom is the AI. Now, no one was a dick, I didn’t encounter any hyper aggressive AI, but they all knew which way the goal gates were going to be facing ahead of time. The player can only see an orange beacon in the distance, but your guess is as good as mine as to which way you need to approach that light in order to best check off the mark. There’s an indicator on the map, but the indicator doesn’t tell you what the terrain is like between here and there, and how many trees are going to be just over those ridges. The easiest approach would be to just follow the pack, but that means admitting to yourself you’re comfortable with second or third, which is a weird way to approach the race. Not to mention that, when you’re in the pack, the likelihood of someone knocking you off your snowmobile is significantly higher, and, while it doesn’t slow you down much (you spawn back on almost immediately), it’s definitely a morale killer.
Additionally, I think I’ve been spoiled by how good certain graphics and ideas look on other games, because I was fixated on how flat and lifeless the snow looked. Even ACORN Tactics, which was arguably a lower quality game, managed to make the water look really nice in every stage. Since snow is a constant throughout the game (even in the very difficult night stages), you’d think it would look quite realistic to have the snowmobiles cutting through the powder and the glaze on the way to the finish line, but not really. It seemed like the vehicles just glided over the top of the snow and then tracks appeared almost incidentally. It was bizarre, to say the least, and kind of took me out of the moment.
However, overall, it’s still a very competent racer, and I commend Snow Moto Racing: Freedom for bringing something new to the table other than another kart racer or something in that vein. Additionally, with the winter season upon us, players might want to get a bit of the old snowmobile sensation without the need to actually own a snowmobile or (shudder) go outside. Fans who want the rush of the ride should still consider actually venturing up a mountain for the real experience, but those who just want an observer’s POV will find entertainment here instead.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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