|System: X360 (KINECT)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Rare Ltd.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft Game Studios||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 4, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
Legendary British developer Rare has hardly been on a hot streak over the past few years. After getting bought out by Microsoft years ago, the company has produced a number of creatively engaging products, but nothing that truly captured the attention of gamers. Games like Viva Pinata and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts had plenty of awesome ideas, but they just didn't connect with gamers the way their earlier creations like Goldeneye 007 and Donkey Kong Country did. Now Microsoft has tapped them to create the obligatory sports mini-game compilation for the release of Kinect. Surprisingly, this game may prove to be one of Rare's best products in the last few years. It's not deep or complex, but it's positively dripping with infectious personality that uplifts what would have been a boring me-too experience in the hands of a lesser developer.
I was bemused with Microsoft's decision to include Kinect Adventures rather than Kinect Sports as a pack-in game with Kinect. Both Wii and PlayStation Move launched with a sports compilation included with the console and it did wonders for their popularity. It's only after playing it that I've begun to understand this decision. Kinect Adventures is not very fun. Kinect Sports is heaps of fun. The bottom line is that nobody would buy Kinect Adventures if it didn't already come in the box. Kinect Sports might just be good enough to sell even without the pack-in incentive.
At its heart, Kinect Sports is like every other game of its ilk, including PlayStation Move's Sports Champions and Wii's Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort. For some people (like me), that's a good thing. There's definitely an audience for these types of games. But after four or five great installments in this genre and countless imitators, a merely decent game would likely have been glossed over. Kinect's Sports remedy for this: heaping doses of fun and personality.
Kinect Sports oozes with great little touches that enrich the entire experience. For instance, when beginning the game you are sent to a screen of just your avatar standing in the middle of a stadium surrounded by a calm crowd. Raise one hand and that side of the audience claps. Ditto for the other hand. Raise both hands though and the entire crowd erupts in a huge round of applause and roar of approval. And there you stand with your hands in the air like a triumphant athlete declaring victory while the crowd roars for you. It's an amazing beginning, and it sets the stage for the game to come.
One of the great assets of this entire game is its expansive and fantastic soundtrack. Previous games in this genre had one main theme, and that was it. Kinect Sports has dozens of licensed songs from Queen to Lady Gaga. Rare's favorite trick is to keep the music quiet until something amazing happens (e.g. scoring a goal in Soccer or winning a race in Track and Field) then blast a high-energy, awesome song to punctuate the moment. It works well, and never ceased to bring a smile to my face.
The games themselves are surprisingly high-quality too. Except for bowling, which is, well, bowling. I had zero hopes for a game like soccer when I first turned this game on, but I was almost instantly converted. I assumed it would be an ultra-simple shootout mode or something similar. But in reality, you play a simplified game of soccer. You move the ball down the field, play defense, pass, and take shots on goal. Many of the other games sport the same type of surprising quality.