Kinect Sports Rivals Review
Kinect Sports Rivals Box Art
System: Xbox One
Dev: Microsoft
Pub: Microsoft
Release: April 8, 2014
Players: 1-2
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Mild Violence
Let’s Do The Arm Flail Again
by Angelo M. D’Argenio

Oh look, it’s another motion controlled mini-game compilation. The Kinect, the Move, and even the Wii U really haven’t been hitting it big with these games. Heck, it feels like we haven’t had a successful game like this since Wii Sports. All too often the motion controls don’t work and the games are simply too shallow to warrant continued playthroughs. Kinect Sports Rivals does show that our motion control tech is getting better, and our ability to design around it is getting better still, but despite some of the mini-games being genuinely fun this time around, Kinect Sports Rivals play value suffers, if only because of the tired mini-game compilation formula that it copies.

Let’s go over each of Kinect Sports Rivals’ mini-games one by one. The first and likely best of the games is Wake Racing, in which you hop on a jet-ski and try to burn through courses with the fastest time. The controls are simple, squeeze your hand to squeeze the throttle, turn invisible handlebars left and right to turn your jet ski, lean to make sharper turns or flip in mid-air and that’s about it. The controls here are very responsive, even if your arms will eventually get sore from being held out straight for so long. However, trying to hold on to something that isn’t there is awkward. I’ve never been a fan of invisible steering wheel type motion controlled racing games, so I tried the game while holding a stick in my hand. Sadly, this screwed up the motion control a bit. That being said, the courses are decently fun and the water graphics are pretty damn impressive, and while it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to full games like Wave Race 64 or Jet Moto, this is still a halfway decent racing simulator.

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Rock Climbing was probably my favorite game of the bunch. Here, you have to lift your hand up to grab handholds, and then pull it down to hoist up your body. To successfully make it to the top, you’ll have to dodge electrified hand holds, gusts of wind, and even other climbers that are trying to grab your ankles and throw you down. In a way, this makes Rock Climbing feel the most like an actual game where your decisions, actions and timing matter. Once again it’s decently fun, but the small scope of the game holds it back from having any sort of real replay value.

Kinect Sports Rivals Screenshot

Bowling is a game that we have seen time and time again in motion control compilations, and is probably the best showcase of the Xbox One’s Kinect capabilities. It reads the twists in your wrist while you make a bowling motion in order to put spin on the ball. You need to exaggerate your motions a bit, but that’s not hard when there’s no real bowling ball in your hand. Of all the games in this compilation, bowling felt the most “natural” but that may simply be because bowling translates well to the motion format. As for how much replay value you’ll get out of it, that will really be determined by how much you like bowling.

Tennis, is another game that we have seen made and remade in motion mini-game compilations, and it plays pretty much how you would expect it to. You swing your arm to adjust the power, speed and rotation of your hits. While certainly fun in the short term, Tennis has a lot less replay value than bowling, if only because it feels more like a flailfest. As long as you keep hitting the ball, you are doing OK. The degree to which you actually vary your shots is small, and the biggest challenge is just trying to make sure your shots don’t go out of bounds. Once you manage that, it really just feels like you are waiting for the computer to screw up for some reason.

Kinect Sports Rivals Screenshot

Soccer is probably one of the worst games the compilation has to offer. There’s no element of movement to the game, no strategy in running down the field or handling the ball between your feet. All you do is stand in place and pass the ball to wireframe teammates that then become you…. Or something. These teammates just stand still the whole game, while opponents slide back and forth on the ground like some sort of weird foosball themed shooting gallery. The only strategy there is in this game is timing your shots to make sure an opponent doesn’t intercept it. However, it has absolutely nothing to do with soccer. You can supposedly curve your shots, but I was never able to. Heck, I could barely get my kicks to go off at all. Half the time you just do this jittery dance around the ball instead of actually kicking it. The Kinect apparently has more problems tracking feet than hands.

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