Kinect’s fantastic swan song
I remember being excited about the original Kinect launching for the Xbox 360, back when I worked in retail. Our store even had a midnight opening for it, which was a rarity in those days.
Since then, I’ve played a majority of games released over the years for the device on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One, from the fantastic bowling in Kinect Sports (which caused my mom and grandma to buy Xbox 360s), to dancing my ass off in Dance Central and Just Dance, to the downright awful Fable: The Journey and Commander Cherry. Heck, I’ve even played completely unreleased games such as the Xbox 360 version of Crimson Dragon that I managed to get my hands on. I don’t know why, but I’ve been obsessed with Kinect since launch even though most of its games suck raunchy balls and taint with a bit too few teeth for my liking.
So my words should hold some weight when I say that FRU is easily the best traditional game ever released for the tech. Unfortunately, it also has the worst timing — it seems Kinect is all but officially dead as the upcoming Xbox One S revision requires an additional cable to even use it.
FRU (Xbox One)
Developer: Through Games
Publisher: Through Games
Released: July 13, 2016
While I think FRU is fantastic, that comes with the caveat that the sentence ends with “for a Kinect game.” Which isn’t to say it is a bad game; quite the opposite. Most of the basic gameplay is a simple platformer, but where it mixes things up is the Kinect integration that has you using your body to reveal an alternate reality of the world on-screen to help your character advance.
That said, the simplicity of the platforming is surely on purpose to make up for the fact that you’re moving and contorting your body into all sorts of shapes while holding a controller. Jump is cleverly mapped to the triggers, which means that during those moments where you need to move your hands separately, you’ll still be able to hold onto the controller.
This is probably the only Kinect game where I found myself not having to fight with the tech. There also aren’t a bunch of fail-safes in place that allow players to cheese their way through, something many other games do. The developers’ vision of what they hoped to achieve via Kinect is fully realized and works flawlessly.
The game is broken up into four chapters each with their own mechanic to learn and master. The first chapter just has players moving their bodies to reveal platforms, or allow passage past walls that block their path, which is simple enough. The second chapter turns your body’s outline into water that your character can swim through as you move about with them proverbially inside of you, and may very well be the best water levels I’ve ever played. The third chapter has you posing specifically to press buttons, and the fourth introduces lava into the mix.
The pacing of each chapter ensures you’ll gradually grasp each concept without a single tutorial. Each chapter starts with a few very easy rooms to clear and slowly ramps up to challenging but fair and rewarding finales. I’d even go as far as to say that FRU is a shining example of how to have faith in your players by teaching them through level design and not by treating them like idiots with dull step-by-step tutorials.
Length-wise, you’re looking at around two hours or so to complete the 110 levels, though each level is a single screen. If you’re looking for a challenge and want to unlock the co-op prototype originally shown at E3 2014, then there are 24 collectibles to find hidden throughout FRU. Getting all the collectibles, while challenging, is only marginally more difficult than the base game, which is to say right on the money.
The story tells the tale of a ruler who wanted to be the most beautiful person in the land and made everyone else wear masks. This narrative is told through a few murals with a couple sentences of text each chapter, and it felt like it could have been expanded on a bit more. Thankfully, what is there is interesting enough to be enjoyable, if not all that original. It does have a nice climax though that fits nicely with the gameplay.
The fluid movement, artwork, music, and technology all come together in FRU for a mesmerizing experience that really shows what the Kinect is capable of, or should I say was capable of. I can’t imagine too many more games will be made for it, if any. At least people with Kinects can have one game to try to justify the purchase aside from some fancy voice controls. If you have a Kinect, you owe it to yourself to buy FRU.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]