Skydive: Proximity Flight

Wingsuit BASE-jumping is probably the most bro of all aerial sports, and Skydive seems to fully embrace this. From the rock song talking about being extreme as a way of life in the pre-menu video, to the never-ending drum-heavy rock in game, to overly extreme character names like "Firewing" and "Vortex," this $6.99 title encourages you to indulge in your skydiving fantasies, all from the safety and comfort of your living room, of course. Want to play as a girl dressed as a flying squirrel? Skydive will allow you to do so, no questions asked. Actually, people will probably be more concerned that you're standing in front of your Kinect (or Move) doing the Y.M.C.A. dance in a desperate attempt to control your character's descent.

Alternatively, you can use a traditional controller: perfect for those without Kinect, and those who don't want to wave their arms around like they're guiding aircraft on the tarmac. Should you choose to use a controller, the left thumbstick controls your pitch and yaw and the right thumbstick controls the camera—a generally pointless feature that I used only once, as avoiding objects that are generally below you is rather difficult when your camera is pointing up at the sky.

The premise of the game is simple enough: jump, fly, land. Preferably without hitting any rocks and trees on the way down—although your character shrugs off smaller collisions that would probably kill most humans. The in-game penalty for coming in like a wrecking ball is the deduction of a nominal number of points from your final score; the real penalty, however, is being forced to sit through another egregiously long loading screen and starting back at the beginning (at least in Challenges mode).

Tricks, which are in essence almost entirely optional, are accomplished by holding the A button (X on PS3), then either contorting your body or holding the left thumbstick in any direction. Tricks net you points whilst filling up your adrenaline meter, which can then be used for a speed boost. However, flips will decrease your altitude, as they are not aerodynamic: to stay above the treetops (and, more importantly, to stay alive), you'll need to strike a balance between gliding gracefully and showing off. That's actually more difficult than it sounds since the loading menu keeps egging you on to focus on stringing tricks together.

To extend the appeal of the simple and repetitive gameplay, Skydive offers three game modes: Challenges, Adrenaline Race, and Freestyle.

Challenges mode involves guiding your character through hoops like Sonic on steroids while performing tricks. As the name implies, the challenges increase in difficulty as you progress: the courses become longer, require more complex maneuvering, have to be completed in shorter amounts of time, and need to include more tricks and better landings to attain the highest 3-star rating. For all you perfectionists out there, a word of warning: the courses will almost certainly become tedious long before you manage to achieve perfect ratings in each challenge.

The Adrenaline races, despite not being the 'featured' part of the game, were actually my favorite mode. There is no rating system (although you can still score points for doing tricks); your competition comes in the form of three A.I. characters that jump with you and race you to the finish line. The competition is pretty difficult-- if you want to come in first, you need to replay the level several times to experiment with different routes. Hitting any object will slow you down enough to prevent you from scoring any higher than second place; and you need to use the adrenaline speed boost every time it's available (which means you need to spend a lot of time flying close to the ground or doing barrel rolls).

It's worth noting that this is the only mode in which the characters' unique stats are even remotely important. Even then, "speed" is the only thing that matters, as you need the fastest character if you want to have any hope of coming in first.

However, the Arenaline races are let down by the developer's lack of multiplayer support. Sure, the game allows you to challenge your friends to beat your times and scores on different courses, but Skydive would really benefit from being able to race your friends in real time over Xbox Live.

Finally, in Freestyle mode, you don't have to worry about going through rings or racing to the finish line. Rather, you can focus on tricks, stringing combos together, or going for some of the more difficult achievements: namely, the ones that require you spend certain amounts of time in proximity flight (as in, "really close to the ground"). This mode is a good way to get acclimated to the game's controls—especially if you're using Kinect or Move—before you jump (pardon the pun) into the Challenges.

Skydive isn't a particularly good-looking game—think late-era Original Xbox or PlayStation 2 environments with mid-era Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 graphics—and most of the Challenges landscapes look like they were made by someone who just downloaded Terragen for the first time. But when you spend of the game in freefall, textures aren't really too important. Nor do physics seem to apply much beyond the fact that gravity exists, You mostly travel at 10 meters per second, and "adrenaline"—which is used by depressing either the left or right trigger—allows you to inexplicably boost your speed to what feels like atmospheric escape velocity.

Ultimately, if you're bored for a couple of hours on a weekend then Skydive will give you something to do. But once you've done a few races and some of the challenges, there is very little to keep all but the most dedicated completionists from coming back for more.

I don't think I ever won a single fight in Soulcalibur II. Thankfully, I'm marginally better at reviewing than I am at fighting games.