Most of us have at least one thing - one talent, skill or party trick - that we do really well. Some of us can kick footballs (not me), some of us can dance like pros (not me), and some of us can write for a living (debatable). Somewhere out there there's a man who has a God-given knack for doing that stoner-surf dude voice. You remember the one I mean: its popularity peaked in the 90s when Bill and Ted teamed up with Michelangelo to fight Patrick Swayze and his X-treme Bankrobberz. We all celebrated their victory by going to Laser Quest in our Global Hypercolour T-shirts, remember?
You may not recall any of that, but the surfer-voice-man certainly does. He's been out of work for the past two decades, but Crossboard 7 has finally given him a chance to brush off his classic THC-infused drawl. This is good news for him, certainly, but the rest of us have less cause to be cheerful: he appears here in the guise of MC Ricky, an anthropomorphic ape who describes himself as "Mr Misfit in the funky flesh," whatever that means.
If Crossboard 7 were a Greek Tragedy - and let's face it, it's not far off - then MC Ricky would be the Chorus. His monkey dude-speak underscores the seven Kinect-controlled game modes here, each of which finds you racing or performing tricks on a futuristic hoverboard (sorry, crossboard). Whether you're zipping down the side of a snow-covered mountain, through a desert canyon, or on water like some kind of Pepsi Max Jesus, Ricky will always be with you. He's the Obi-Wan Kenobi of simian snowboarders, and he's annoying as a stubbed toe on a cold morning - but he's not the biggest problem on the game's shoulders.
No, by far the heftiest issue here is the fact that the crossboards themselves are a nightmare to control. The idea is that you stand sideways in front of Kinect, on your invisible board, arching your body sideways to steer left and right. Leaning in towards the TV causes you to pick up speed, jumping lets you jump, and facing the TV front-on brings you to an immediate stop. Finally, lifting and stomping your foot lets you fire off a power-up, provided that you've surfed over one of the glowing dispensers that litter each track. Individually, there's nothing wrong with any of these commands; the fatal flaw is that none of them can be relied upon to work when you need them.
There are traces of Tony Hawk: Ride here, in that the controls can only be trusted to the most basic degree. Lean left or right you will turn in the relevant direction - but it might be a tiny shift in angle, or a massive shift that sends you straight into a wall; it's just about impossible to turn with any precision. Similarly, it's easy enough to get up in the air, but as you flail your limbs about to trigger tricks, there's never any doubt that you're doing just that. Power-ups rarely seem to ever work, not that it matters: the lack of responsiveness poses a far bigger threat than any of your anthropomorphic rivals. At a guess, I'd say that the controls do exactly what they're supposed to around 60 per cent of the time; even when you do scrape by without too many hitches, you feel that luck, rather than player skill, was your primary benefactor.
It's a shame, because unlike Ride there are occasional ghostly hints of a half-decent game, buried under all the stuff that doesn't work. One of the seven modes is just a set of tutorials, but the other six offers a decent spread of tricking, balloon-popping and long-jump contests. When you're simply racing for the finish line, you'll find that there are branching paths and shortcuts to take - but none of this stuff matters if you don't have true control of your board. Aside from the steering, there have been several times when my racer stopped dead in his tracks because Kinect had decided that I was facing the TV face-on - even though I clearly wasn't; on more than one occasion this happened to me when I was in first place on the finishing straight - a crime that should send any racer to the gaming equivalent of the electric chair.
By comparison, Crossboard 7's other faults seem relatively minor. It's not an offensive-looking game, but the brief CGI character introductions are the only area where the game looks to be making an effort; the actual character designs are fairly annoying, although there is at least the option to use your LIVE avatar. MC Ricky will make you want to bash your brains out against a wall, but for all the jabs I've made, I don't have that much of a problem with the game's presentation. It's extremely cheesy and smacks of the early '90s (I swear I've not heard anyone say "gnarly" or "cowabunga" in at least 12 years) but if the controls worked, Crossboard 7 might be a vaguely acceptable way to blow an hour or two. As it is, it's a £40 chocolate teapot.
VideoGamer.com Score4 Score out of 10
- Lots of game modes
- The menu system is oddly satisfying
- The controls don't work
- MC Ricky may drive you to murder