Don’t jump for joy
I was a pretty big fan of the original Doodle Jump. It was simple, it was cheap, and I enjoyed competing against my wife for the highest score. It was one of the first iOS games I played, and it suited the platform perfectly.
But that was back in 2009, and I got it for under a buck. Now, you have the option to get basically the same game, with forced Kinect-only controls, for five bucks.
It’s just as unappealing in practice as it sounds on paper.
Doodle Jump for Kinect (Xbox Live Arcade)
Developer: Smoking Gun Interactive
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Released: June 28, 2013
MSRP: 400 Microsoft Points ($4.99)
As a general rule, I don’t think all Kinect games are flops. Some of them work very well, and fulfill their role perfectly — like Fruit Ninja or The Gunstringer — and deliver unique experiences that really let the Kinect feel like a success. Others fall flat and feel forced and contrived — Doodle Jump is one of those games.
Like a large number of Kinect games, Doodle Jump for Kinect only operates under what I call “above ideal conditions.” In other words, if you have a gigantic room, move everything out of the way, stand perfectly straight, and place the Kinect on top of your TV, things are likely to go according to plan — most of the time.
To be clear, you play the role of The Doodler, as you ascend higher and higher on a vertical plane, and fight off enemies along the way. The Doodler has to land on platforms to keep ascending, and if he falls, it’s back to the checkpoint. It’s a simple concept right? That’s where the convoluted Kinect controls come in.
To move left or right, you have to physically stand up, and move your feet from side to side. As you can already see, space constantly plays an issue, but even after clearing out my basement to make plenty of room, I had tons of problems. While you can lean to error-correct Doodler a bit, you have to actually step, or full-on side-step/jump to really get him to move quickly.
It’s not accurate, and it’s extremely frustrating to fall to your doom during a precise jump, which start piling up by the dozens after the first few levels — particularly the ones that require you to land on top of a moving projectile. Why Smoking Gun Interactive couldn’t opt for a “sit down” mode, or ideally, a controller mode, is beyond me. Power-ups operate in a different way, involving hand motions to fire bullets, or flapping your arms to fly — these actually work quite well, so long as you’re okay with flailing your arms from time to time.
It’s a shame that the controls had to be so forced, because for five bucks, the concept isn’t horrible. Instead of opting for “endless” levels with different themes like the mobile version, there are full-on stages available, with Achievements, leaderboards, and a three-star scoring system to encourage perfection.
A few boss levels break up the monotony, and are implemented quite well. During the first few levels that didn’t require pinpoint precision, I actually didn’t mind leaning in that much, and things started off fairly promising, all things considered.
There’s only a handful of levels on offer, but you probably won’t have the patience to get through them without throwing in the towel. On top of that that, there’s a lack of a special mode such as a multiplayer component, so it doesn’t really innovate, even on Doodle Jump terms.
The Doodler is still cute, and kids might love frolicking around the camera for five bucks, so if you have children, this could occupy their time until they get frustrated with it. For everyone else though, stay far away unless controller support is patched in at some point — and even then, it’s probably best you stay far away anyways.