*A review code was provided by the developer for this review.
Having grown up in a subtropical climate, I’m a bit sensitive to the cold. I hate how being cold literally makes you ‘freeze’; you move a lot slower and kinda just want to stay in one position all huddled up. But, you know what’s even more annoying than that? When a game gets ‘cold’, or rather I should say when the framerate freezes up. Rather ironically, that’s the biggest problem with Snow Moto Racing Freedom on Switch.
As the name suggests, Snow Moto Racing Freedom is all about snowmobile racing. There are three different disciplines: Sprint, Snocross and Freedom League. Sprint races involve you racing around a large, open course passing through a specific number of checkpoints; the catch is that these checkpoints are scattered all over the place, so you don’t follow a set track. Snocross races do take place on enclosed tracks, and simply involve you running laps while occasionally pulling of jumps and navigating tight turns. The Freedom League just includes a collection of Sprint and Snocross races that you alternate between.
There are a number of different courses and snowmobiles to choose from, which is nice. But really, it’s hard to care about that when the actual racing experience is impeded quite heavily due to the incredibly choppy framerate. Like how cold weather tends to make people slow down, Snow Moto Racing Freedom must always be cold because the framerate slows down quite often. While the game does seem to top out at 60 FPS, it’s actually really hard to tell since 99.99 percent of the time the framerate is actually hovering somewhere between 20-30. Occasionally it’s even seemed to drop into the teens; I found this to be the case during most nighttime races, but I’ll come back to this in a bit.
The main point is that the framerate of this game is usually pretty bad. When it does run smooth, the racing is somewhat enjoyable, but even that is basically also a hit-and-miss. I know riding through the snow is not nearly as simple as an actual road, but these snowmobiles do feel quite hard to control. Trying to make a sharp turn is not fun at all, as it usually just ends up in me sliding off the course. It’s not as bad in the Sprint races since they take place in large, open areas, but it’s still a race, so trying to recover from a bad turn costs speed which then leads to a loss in position. This could also be attributed to the Joy-Con/Pro Controller’s lack of analog triggers, but simply having tighter controls would have improved this, if not fixed it completely. Additionally, the physics system is pretty basic and only really comes into place when trying to go up a hill.
Low framerates are bad for any game, but especially so when it comes to racing games.
I found it difficult to enjoy the gameplay due to these shortcomings. The two main things that influence any game’s fun factor the most is controls and framerate; no game is truly enjoyable if either (or both) of these areas are weak. Since Snow Moto Racing Freedom has issues in both these areas, you can see why I think it’s hard to enjoy the experience.
When it comes to the poor framerate, it actually doesn’t make sense why it’s so low here on Switch. This game is no machine-pusher; it has the visual quality of a cheap mobile title. The Switch handles far more demanding games than this, such as FAST RMX. While Snow Moto Racing Freedom does seem to run at 1080p and features anti-aliasing, that’s about all the good things to that can be said about its presentation. Like its sibling, Aqua Moto Racing Utopia, it seems like the developers just threw in generic, stock assets from whatever game engine they used to make this and called it a day. All the models look very basic, and there aren’t much visual effects to even masquerade this.
About the only thing you get is the snowmobiles kicking up clouds of snow and there’s also some basic fog that appears on certain courses. I mentioned earlier that the framerate gets seriously low during some nighttime races especially. I think that has to do with the lighting effects coming from the headlights of the snowmobiles—but they really aren’t anything special. Like everything else, the lighting system is very basic, but it seems to pull even more system resources. Ultimately, I think that the game engine simply hasn’t been optimized properly for the Switch, but that’s rather strange considering that the aforementioned Aqua Moto Racing Utopia uses the exact same engine, yet it runs a lot better. So, it has to just be bad optimization in the case of this game, since again, there are far more demanding games on Switch that run a whole lot better. Sound-wise, there isn’t much to talk about. Like its sibling game, the music is pretty generic, although the motor sounds of the snowmobiles are decent enough.
— THE BOTTOM LINE —
Don’t let this promo image fool you: the game doesn’t look this good. Even if it did, the gameplay just isn’t engaging enough to stay entertaining for more than a short while.
Ultimately, like Aqua Moto Racing Utopia, Snow Moto Racing Freedom just feels very unrefined. Even if the framerate was actually tolerable, the core game is pretty basic and gets boring rather quickly. The one thing going for this game is that there’s currently a lack of racing titles on the Switch and so far this is the only one dedicated to winter sports. Even so, despite there not being much else to choose from, I wouldn’t bother with this in its current state. If the framerate issues are ever addressed, then perhaps it might be fun for younger gamers, but even then it just doesn’t have much lasting appeal.