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Ready for the big time? [Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne]
[November 28, 2012]

Ready for the big time? [Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne]

(Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, WY) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 28--"Top Hand Rodeo Tour" is the first interactive rodeo video game experience.

That makes it difficult to review, since there is nothing to compare it to. Still, it's easy to spot an unpolished game.

First, a disclaimer: Though I've been to plenty of rodeos, I am certainly no expert. That may make me under-qualified to say if the game is lifelike or authentic, but I suppose the same could be said of any non-athlete reviewing a sports video game.

The idea of "Top Hand" is enticing. Players use the Xbox 360 motion capture controller to act out various events from the rodeo: roping, barrel racing and, of course, bull riding. Hand motions are as close to the real thing as possible, with riders giving a nod to start the events and twirling their right hands up high to get the lassos ready.

Players can compete in a story mode or take turns battling for high scores. Scores can also be posted online to compete with the world for top-hand status.

Sounds fun right Well it is, right up to when you actually start to play. The controls may be similar to real-life actions, but they are far from precise. There were plenty of times when I overcorrected my horse or simply rode past the calves I was supposed to be catching, my arm flailing desperately to slow down the galloping horse.

Things got worse in the shooting stages, where my pistol shots sailed into the stands over balloons. Which reminds me, why would anyone be shooting toward the stands Though instructions to fix these issues would instantly flash up onto the screen, my movements and the game's recognition never synched into onscreen success.

I spent more time than I care to mention riding aimlessly around those arenas, just trying to get back on the right path. The announcers were none too pleased. Can't say I was, either.

The inelegant programming shows up in other aspects as well. Graphics range from poor to terrible, and the game has little variation. There are only so many times you can rock your torso from the hips in time to the bull onscreen before you lose what little thrill there was.

On the positive side, many of the problems melt into the background when "Top Hand" is played in a group or party setting. Players can take turns setting high scores or even work together on team roping events. Controls are still bad, but at least there is someone there to laugh as you twirl an imaginary rope in your living room.

"Top Hand Rodeo" is a downloadable game posing as something worth a physical copy to the tune of $40. With a lower price tag, the troubling program issues and its replay-ability are more tolerable.

But then, who would pay that much for a party game ___ (c)2012 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.) Visit Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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