Kinect Adventures is the action-packed game that comes bundled with Microsoft’s latest nifty gadget – Kinect. Given this is relatively new technology and a mandatory purchase with the hardware, what impression does it leave for those trying out Kinect?
Basically, Kinect Adventures comprises five quirky mini-games, each made to show off how Kinect works and put you right into the experience. Now at its most, that’s all Kinect Adventures really is, though it hides behind a wall of different modes, objectives and even a story (well I think it’s a story…). The main question, though, is whether the games themselves are as entertaining and enjoyable as Microsoft would like us to believe?
Once you’ve calibrated the game (which you need to do each time you boot it up, although fortunately you can opt to speed the process up), you’ll probably want to start off with Adventure mode. This is, for all intents and purposes, a very basic story mode. The premise is that you’re a new recruit in the Adventure Team, a group of adventurers who explore exotic locales and complete said five mini-games. The story is about as basic as it gets, but it’s light and very family friendly.
Here’s the lowdown on the games themselves:
River Rush: This is water rafting with a Kinect tang to it, and is for me the one of best of the lot. Your avatar is placed in the middle of a raft and you steer it around obstacles and through gates, collecting pins by jumping from one side of the raft to the other. You can also launch your raft into the air by jumping, which you’ll need to do in order to dodge certain obstacles and in order to get to the hard-to-reach areas, which are full of Coins. Aside from the idea, which is pretty cool, River Rush is one of the stronger mini-games in the title because, out of all of them, it probably requires the strongest knowledge of the Kinect controls, and because its two player co-op mode genuinely needs good teamwork and coordination.
Reflex Ridge: An on-the-edge obstacle course, Reflex Ridge has you jumping, ducking, side-stepping and flailing your arms in the air in order to avoid diffrent obstacles, gain boosts and collect more pins. It’s only a pity there isn’t a fitness counter included, because if you put some extreme effort into it, you’ll be getting good excercise from Reflex Ridge. The two player here is also strong, although it contrasts nicely with River Rush in that it’s a frantic competitive race against the other player.
Space Pop: Funnily enough, I prefer Space Pop over Rallyball, because at least it works, even if it is extremely boring. The aim is to pop bubbles, quite simple really and you can do this with any part of your body. Bubbles come out of holes along the side of the room which light up just before being released, so you know where you need to place yourself. The only original thing to Space Pop is the idea that you flap your arms to float into the air, but that’s simply not a compelling enough twist to maintain even a minute’s worth of interest in the game.
20,000 Leaks: In reality, Reflex Ridge and River Rush are what make Kinect Adventures a reasonable game and they completely out do the three other games. Out of these three, I enjoyed 20,000 Leaks the most. Your avatar is submerged beneath the waves in a glass tank. The twist is that the waters are infested with troublesome fish and sharks that keep smashing against the walls, cracking your tank and causing leaks. You then have to move about the tank, pressing your hands, feet, head, elbows and knees against the holes that are created, which will repair the broken glass. It’s quite simple and, in some respects, mundane mini-game, which also highlights the current accuracy limits of Kinect. But it’s a happy little game to which I dont mind returning every now and then.
Rallyball: This might come as a surprise, particularly given my criticism of Space Pop. How could Rallyball be worse than that, espacially after it was showcased so… enthusiastically, at E3. Of all the games in this title, Rallyball is the one that most highlights the current limits of Kinect, and is generally a very annoying experience. The time lag, which isn’t all that obvious in the other games, is highly visable in Rallyball, and it’s jarring to move to block the ball’s path only to have it fly past you because the game didn’t pick up on the movement fast enough. What could have been one of the best ideas for Kinect (I was probably in that small number of hardcore gamers who thought it looked cool during the E3 presentation) turns into a weakness.
As a whole, the games themselves change very little over the course of the Adventure mode, although the objectives you need to complete within each level do change. So, for example in one ‘River Rush’ level, you will be task to collect as many Coins as possible, where with another your objective may be to complete the course before the clock runs out.
Graphically, Kinect Adventures is actually rather strongly presented, although it obviously won’t blow anyone away. The graphics are colourful and bright in every sense. The cartoon-like feel is well fitted to the game’s goal of being a good family-friendly and casual introdiction to Kinect, and the Xbox 360’s avatars are put to good use. Reflex Ridge, River Rush and 20,000 Leaks are all set against some beautiful backdrops and scenery, although once again Rallyball and Space Pop prove themselves to be weak links. The music is happy and well-suited to the adventure theme, although it can become like a black board after after a while. Though the voiceovers are perhaps a little too artificially happy at times, this is both acceptable and forgivable.
Value, however, is an issue for Kinect Adventures. There are plenty of modes: Adventure, Free Play, Timed and Multiplayer (the online portion of which is hard to navigate and can take a while to load, but is stable and lag-free once you’re in a game, when I could find one that is), but at the end of the day you’re just playing the same five mini-games over and over again, and as a result Kinect Adventures has a very small lifespan outside of the casual showing of for casual-gaming friends and family.
Kinect Adventures is a great example for both the future and current limitations of the device. There are some ankle-biting problems with the gameplay, including lag and limited accuracy, but they only massively effect two of the five games that make the collection. Two of the mini-games are quite simple and to put it simply, boring or frustrating. On the other side, there are two games included which do give off Kinect at its most basic, silly, orginal and enjoyable best. It won’t entertain you for long, but it’s a pretty decent preview what the future can hold for Kinect.