November 7, 2011

Indoor Pool

Lasting First Impressions of Michael Phelps: Push the Limit from 505 Games

Push the Limit boxart Multiple Gold Medalist winner, Michael Phelps, along with developers 505 Games are aiming to bring, for the first time ever, the thrill and excitement of competitive swimming home.  Created exclusively for the XBOX Kinect, Michael Phelps: Push the Limit is a swimming simulator, allowing the player to participate in a variety of swimming events in either career mode, where you will eventually compete against the champion himself, or against your friends in split screen or online play.

Push the Limit brings the main styles of competitive swimming to the living room: Freestyle, Backstroke, Butterfly, and Breaststroke are the styles of races to be found in this title.  Each of these styles have a unique and realistic motion control and they are implemented quite well using Kinect.  The movements required to control your very own, customizable swimmer, feel natural and believable.  Even without the inherent pull of actual water, you will feel like you are performing the proper swimming moves (arms only, however) to control the game.

While the graphics used in this titles aren’t the most detailed or of the highest quality, it’s not really about the surroundings and it more about the water and 505 Games definitely got that right.  The water effects are top notch and very well done.

Push the Limit screen 1

Great water effects, however, aren’t going to save a game from under-par controls and gameplay.  When I first started playing the game, instructions were unclear as to how to properly control my swimmer. The game can be very confusing when first jumping into a new event or challenge; while I thought I was doing the proper movements, my swimmer was consistently coming in last place.  It took several tries before I finally figured out how to do it and that’s when every race I played became very easy and I won first place in every event I tried.  There is definitely not much of a difficulty level in this game and the real challenge won’t be against the game, but against your friends.

Unfortunately, that’s all there is to this game.  There’s really no variation on the gameplay as you progress through the title.  Each of the 4 swimming styles have their unique control method, but essentially the entire game is made up of your flapping your arms in rhythm with a metronome, to keep proper, realistic timing, or doing it as fast as you can for sprints.  Even that isn’t perfectly implemented here as I came across several instances of the game completely not recognizing my movements and my swimmer just stopped swimming and floated, very slowly, to the goal.  I even had to quit and restart the game from the dashboard because I was no longer being recognized at all by the game (outside the game, Kinect was still working fine).Push the Limit screen 2

There are other small items in the game that bothered me as well.  In every race, even though I was signed in using my Gamertag, I was known to the game as “Player” and not my Gamertag name.  If this is a competitive swimming simulator, and I can completely customize the look of my player, upgrading his skills after every win, then the game should at least show my name on my character.  The menu system, while very typical for a Kinect title, felt slow and frustrating to navigate.  During the character creation phase, I chose to change only the swimming suit he was wearing because I felt it would have taken much too long to attempt to customize his body using these lagging Kinect controls.

In my hour playing the game, I completed the entire first block of the game and entered Season 1 (of 3) Olympic seasons.  Another hour or maybe two of playing this game and it will be done, with all 1000 gamerscore too!  Overall, 505 Games did a commendable job bringing the first of its kind swimming title to Kinect.  There just isn’t enough here to keep one interested and coming back for more.

505 Games, I gave you an hour, but I am NOT IMPRESSED.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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One Comment

  1. Would you have felt different if a special edition had included water wings?

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