Inside Pulse 12

E3 2011 Impressions: Michael Phelps: Push The Limit

When meeting with 505 games, the first game they showed me was Michael Phelps: Push The Limit, a Kinect game where your movement will determine if you can swim along with Michael Phelps, the half-man, half-fish Olympic champion. They began with having someone demonstrate the game for me. The guy first raised his arms to pump the crowd up, and told me that doing so gave you a bonus in the race. Now, graphically, the game looked pretty good, with very detailed character models, water, and the gym the demo took place in. However, when he raised his arms and the on-screen Phelps did the same… it looked kind of creepy. It looked like Phelps on screen was raising his arms as if on strings, like he was a very detailed electronic puppet whose soulless eyes gazed at me from behind blue tinted goggles.

Moving on, the guy demonstrating leaned forward for starting stance, and when a buzzer went off, he put his arms out in front of him. The game measured the response time and that corresponds to how well you start in the race. Then, as he raced, there was a metronome on the bottom of the screen; as he acted out the strokes, the guy explained to me that you needed to move your arms to the rhythm of the metronome. The game was giving him feedback with each stroke if he was going too fast or too slow. Then he hit the end of the pool, flipped around and started racing back.

When he finished, he asked if I wanted to give it a shot, and so I did, with a little concern, since if this game was about doing the dog paddle I could destroy it. However, I swim about as well as I flirt with women, meaning I put in a lot of effort, never get anywhere, and I start getting a sinking feeling after about a minute.

I stepped up and made the creepy Phelps puppet get the crowd ready, nearly throwing my arm out of the socket to get these swim fans in a polite frenzy of anticipation. I leaned down, and when the game buzzed, I shot my arms out Superman style. I sort of think they should include a disclaimer with the game that they are not responsible if you get carried away and actually dive at that moment, risking injury or embarrassment as everyone in the room stops and stares at you. I’m not saying I did dive, just that I can understand the urge.

So then the metronome starts, and I think I’ve got this in the bag, as moving my arms isn’t exactly rocket science. I think they had it on an easier difficulty, though, so that guys like me could feel like swimming gods for one moment in our lives, even if in an actual pool we’d sink like a rock. I reached the end of the pool, turned around, was swimming back and then halfway back the representative said to just start swimming as fast as possible. So I started flipping out. I’ve been in mosh pits before, so I started swinging my arms around like a chimpanzee on speed.

I got second place. I was pleased, though the on screen Phelps looked so dejected that you would think he got caught smoking pot again.

Speaking to the rep after, I learned that the full game would include a Create-a-Swimmer mode, where you could create your own creepy lifelike puppet and train them from week to week while competing in competitions. There will be four different strokes, online multiplayer, and local multiplayer party game modes. While the game seemed like something that could be repetitive, it sounds like they have tried to pack in as much content around the idea as possible, so if you are a fan of Michael Phelps or swimming competitions, this game will be for you. For the rest of us, it seemed interesting if you wanted for at least one moment to take off your floaties and feel like a swimming god.