Imagine Figure Skater is an ice skating simulator for the DS, will it spin you around or leave you cold?
Figure skating is a sport which requires skill, strength and elegance and unlike most popular sports has not been the subject of many video games. As I recall, there has only been one other computer simulation of the sport, which was part of the Winter Games package on the Commodore 64. More than a decade has passed since then, so have Spike Software managed to capture the drama and excitement of this sport in their new figure skating game?
Imagine Figure Skater follows one of three young female skaters through training, skating and daily life. The skating on offer throughout the game is what's known as "Free Skating". Free skating involves jumps (axel, lutz, flip and others) spins and step sequences set to music. There's no ice dancing or pairs skating in the game. With figure skating being so much about balance and co-ordination, it's not the easiest sport to simulate on a games console. So, what innovative control system have the developers come up with for Imagine Figure Skater? Sadly, the control system isn't much different to that used in many other DS sport games. To perform jumps, you trace the patterns on the screen with the stylus, one time for each rotation that you are required to complete. Do the tracing correctly and your skater will perform the jump. Trace outside, or take to long, and she'll fall. Each jump has a specific pattern, with harder jumps involving zig zags, but even younger players should be able to perform them without any difficulty. Step sequences involve slotting coloured shapes into the correct holes, spins simply require you to spin the stylus tip on an area of the DS screen.
Starting the game in the ice rink, you get to meet your coach and master your first basic jump. Once you've done that, you can wander off from the rink and start chatting to other people in the town. While you're not skating, you have three key attributes to build upon. These are Stamina, Co-ordination and Artistry. To build these attributes, you take part in mini-games. Sadly, these mini-games are of a poor standard and feel somewhat shoe-horned into the game. To build your stamina, for example, you must stuff your face with plates of sushi, by tapping and sliding plates from the touch screen to the top screen. Occasionally kittens (yes kittens) will slide by on the conveyor belt, these should be avoided (no, your skater won't actually scoff them if you make a mistake). While I'm by no means an expert in sport nutrition, I can't see how gorging yourself on fish would help you become a better skater and sadly the mini-games don't get much better than this. Raising your artistry can be done by playing a cake decorating mini-game or a block sliding mini-game. Co-ordination can be raised by sliding pucks at penguins at the ice rink (I kid you not). Most bizarre of all is the locker game, where you open all the lockers in the gym and look for pairs of items. Even the dancing mini-game, which actually makes sense in the context of a figure skating game, is poorly presented and quickly gets repetitive.
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