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Review: Kinect Adventures

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Chosen as an introductory game for all owners of Kinect for Xbox 360, Kinect Adventures could and should be considered the first piece of software for Microsoft’s ambitious motion sensing camera. In many ways its a fleshed out tech demo, a proof of concept for both developers and consumers, the game that shows off just what the hardware is capable of. 

If you’re purchasing Kinect hardware, you’re getting Kinect Adventures, no questions -- it comes bundled with the sensor. But is it any good, a title that shows off the bright future of controller-free gaming? 

Chosen as an introductory game for all owners of Kinect for Xbox 360, Kinect Adventures could and should be considered the first piece of software for Microsoft’s ambitious motion sensing camera. In many ways its a fleshed out tech demo, a proof of concept for both developers and consumers, the game that shows off just what the hardware is capable of. 

If you’re purchasing Kinect hardware, you’re getting Kinect Adventures, no questions -- it comes bundled with the sensor. But is it any good, a title that shows off the bright future of controller-free gaming? {{page_break}}

Kinect Adventures (Xbox 360)
Developer: Good Science Studio
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release date: November 4, 2010
Price: $149.99 (Bundled with Kinect for Xbox 360 sensor) 

On the back of the game’s box, Microsoft is advertising “20 different heart-pounding adventures,” but that statement’s a bit deceiving. More accurate is that there are 20 different “levels,” ranging in difficulty, each mixing and match the title’s five different game types. Yup, there are only five distinct games in Kinect Adventures: “Rally Ball”; “River Rush”; “Reflex Ridge”; “20,000 Leaks”; and “Space Pop.” 

While there’s actually a decent amount of variation in how they’re presented -- sometimes you’re engaging a timed activity, other times you’re tasked with collecting “Adventure Pins” or diamonds, for instance -- the lack of game types may be Kinect Adventure’s biggest shortcoming. It’s fortunate that of the games that are on the disc, most are adequate and original mini-games. But more to the point, they’re games that you likely couldn’t do with any other hardware in that most (if not all) utilize full body movements. With that in mind, it’s “Mission Accomplished” for Microsoft, which is banking on a game like Kinect Adventures to prove Kinect as a refreshing, groundbreaking new product. How successful the individual games are in the fun department is another story. 

You’ve likely already seen “Rally Ball,” a game type that Microsoft has been showing off since the introduction of Kinect, back when it was known simply as “Project Natal.” The concept is straightforward -- the game ties your movements to an on-screen avatar, and you’re tasked with swatting balls at targets and bricks off in the distance. Here you can use any part of your (or more specifically, your Avatar’s) body -- your arms, your legs, you torso, and even your head. The game will even track the velocity of your movements, so a wider and faster swing will send the ball soaring down the alley at its targets. 

Of the five games, I had to most fun with “Rally Ball,” simply because kicking and smashing stuff is instinctively pleasurable. Even with the lack of tactile feedback, it’s extremely gratifying to “connect” your foot with a ball and watch it dart towards its targets. Things can get really manic when there are multiple balls on the screen, and you’ll have to manipulate your body quickly and frantically in all manner of ways to nail your targets. 

In “River Rush,” you’ll find your Avatar standing on a blow-up raft, racing down fierce whitewater rapids. You’ll step left and right in front of the Kinect sensor to move the raft according, and jump up to make the on-screen ramp get a little extra air to access new areas, or leap off of ramps. I found the left and right raft movement to be a bit touchy in many situations; sometimes the smallest steps sometimes sent the raft careening, other times I felt I had to overstate my movements to reach ramps or flag markers. (Avatar’s also have perfect balance, their feet planted firmly on the moving raft, their bodies oddly sliding left and right as you move.) 

"Reflex Ridge" is probably the most active of the “adventures,” a roller coaster-like obstacle course that will have you leaping, ducking, waving your arms, and hopping left and right. It’s also the best of all of the games on the disc to really show off what the Kinect hardware is capable of when it’s working as advertised. From tracking a body in 3D space (you’ll reach out to “grab” bars to pull yourself forward to gain speed) to leg and arm movements, “Reflex Ridge” is a nice showpiece of the hardware. It’s likely the one you’ll want to start with when trying to justify your purchase to friends and relatives, and it helps that it’s a decent amount of fun… the first few times you play it. (More on that in a moment.)

The final two games -- “20,000 Leaks” and “Space Pop” -- are the ones Microsoft focused on the least when demoing and marketing Kinect Adventures, and there’s a good reason for it: they’re the weakest of the batch. In “Leaks” you’ll find your Avatar underwater in a glass tank, with sea life smashing their fishy little faces against its walls and opening up cracks which allows water seep in. It’s your job to manipulate your entire body to cover the leaks, which appear in front of you, to your side, and on the floor… sometimes in all of these places at once. “Pop” has you bursting bubbles in an anti-gravity chamber, moving forward and back and flapping your arms to get air to bust those above you. Both games feel awkward and more specifically, aren’t much fun, and the goals aren’t exceptionally demanding to achieve.

Across the game’s various “adventures” you’re going to find yourself exhausted, both physically and mentally, as you repeat these five activities over… and over… and over. While they’re each novel in their own right, by the time you get the the game’s “Intermediate” difficulty (this shouldn’t take more than an hour), it’s likely you’ll have had enough. It’s especially frustrating that the most physically taxing of the events, “Reflex Ridge,” is seemingly rehashed the most throughout all of the game’s levels. I found myself wanting more “Rally Ball” -- let me smash up some crap -- but instead was forced to repeatedly hop and dash through “Reflex Ridge” courses. Sure, it helps that as you advance through the stages the games vary in what they throw at you (different obstacle placement, etc.). But the truth of the situation is that you’re essentially performing the same actions and game times ad naseum.

Many of the games on the disc can played with a friend, which adds a bit of longevity to the experience, provided you have the space. When the game begins, the Kinect sensor will gauge the current area to see if you have enough space to play. There are two options here -- “Good” (about six feet of space in front of the TV) and “Best” (which requires about eight feet of space). Using my default real world living room setup, I was only able to achieve “Good” which means I was automatically disqualified from participating in any two-player events. To the game’s credit, it does suggest you move furniture if you can (I couldn’t; I had to move my set up to an entirely new area to test the multiplayer). This isn’t so much the game’s fault as much as it is a limitation of the hardware (one that cropped up in the other games I reviewed for launch), but it’s something that needs to be noted. 

For a free pack-in game, Kinect Adventures certainly could be worse. As far as a “game” is concerned, there’s actually more content here than “The One Game Pack-In To Rule Them All,” Nintendo’s Wii Sports. There’s a decent amount of progression that can be made within the game’s progression mode, which you’ll use to unlock items for your Xbox Live Avatar and earn user-manipulated “living statues” that you can share online. 

The problem is that while there’s a lot to obtain from the game, there’s ultimately very little to do. A handful of other game types on disc could have helped towards keeping the experience fresh, but as it stands, it fizzles out a little too soon to keep you coming back for more. 

Score: 6

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Nick Chester
Nick ChesterFormer Editor-in-Chief (2011)   gamer profile

Editor-in-Chief @ Destructoid.com nick at destructoid.com  more + disclosures


 




 



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