The lights are on
Ice is unpredictable. For as long as I can remember, any sport that used ice skating as its backbone has fascinated me. Every time a competitor steps on it, not only do they have to navigate the ice’s own obstacles, but they’re usually adding on stunts. Whether it’s landing a triple axel or deking around a group of defenders to score a goal, these athletes have no fear of the ice’s risks. So much so that some are actually willing to increase them.
As a fan of sports involving skating, I had no idea that Red Bull invented its own off-the-rails sport called Crashed Ice. Crashed Ice takes speed skating, adds roller-derby roughness, and tasks contestants with exploring a downhill expansive course complete with obstacles and jumps. Competitions are held all over the world (from Switzerland to Quebec), pitting different countries against each other. Recently, the tour hit St. Paul, MN with over 115,000 people in attendance despite the freezing cold. This sport has caught on to great fanfare and there’s even a Kinect game based off it. Yes, that’s right, you don’t have to just watch and imagine what your shot at this sport would be like – you can actually take the challenge yourself. Since I’m one of those who loves to watch the sport but lacks the skating skills, I decided to test out Crashed Ice on the Kinect and see how it stacks up to the actual competition.
Don’t think you’re going to be moving your legs to skate; Crashed Ice Kinect is all about using your arms to gain momentum, which can really be a workout. Pumping your arms, you fly down various different courses that are based on real tournament locations like St. Paul, Munich, and Quebec City. These urban courses are filled with pitfalls to avoid by dodging, ducking, or blocking via the Kinect. You can also pick up performance-boosting Red Bull cans (the advertising doesn’t take long to appear, but the namesake should tell you that much) for help as you shift your weight for the best positioning on the course. The tug-of-war between you and other competitors means it’s perfectly okay to bump other skaters off balance. Also, because it’s a video game, the developers added some new features that aren’t in the sport for a fun suspension of reality. You can use rails for shortcuts and nail high air jumps with fancy spins, which are activated by jumping in place. Obviously, these tweaks are impossible in the actual sport, but add a new level of strategy to the Kinect game.
Putting yourself through the workout is all for the goal of becoming the Ice Cross Downhill World Champion through XBLA. The lure is competing against others across the world to earn the top spot on the leaderboards. This closely resembles the spirit of Crashed Ice, which nets players the same goal: obtaining the fastest time in the world. The idea is inspired, but it falls short of providing the adrenaline rush that I’m sure the actual competitors feel as they take the ice.
Unfortunately, with only five courses, running through them all takes around an hour without much replay value other than working for those leaderboards. While Crashed Ice did get my heart racing, it wasn’t as fun as I hoped. At least playing the Kinect game lets you avoid the crowds, frostbite, and a potential injury. As event commentator and former NHL star Jeremy Roenick says, "You have the coolness of playing the game; you can't feel the speed, you can't feel the pain or feel when you fall. I think it's about learning what the sport is, not so much feeling what it's like doing the sport, but learning what it is, so you can appreciate it when you watch it." If you look at the Kinect game as an introduction to the daredevil sport, it does do its job. A certain excitement presents itself in knowing people actually do this in real life. Red Bull: Crashed Ice Kinect is available for download.
Still, I recommend seeing the actual sport in action for the adrenaline kick. The start of the race on top of that massive hill can’t be captured in your living room. Roenick says anticipation of the race’s beginning is his favorite part, “The first drop is a doozy. [Competitors are] usually airborne for a couple of seconds. You just never know which ones are going to end up on their feet, or end up crashing to the bottom." Want to experience the thrill? The St. Paul event airs on February 16 at 4:00 PM ET on NBC.
To see it person, the tour is still making a few stops.
Check out some footage from the St. Paul event below.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.