Let’s Do The Arm Flail Again
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, Target Shooting is hands down the worst game this compilation has to offer. You point your finger like a gun at the screen and try to line it up with targets. When you do that, you automatically fire and rack up points. There are numerous reasons why this doesn’t work. First of all, all your hand is really doing is controlling a cursor. Your actual hand position has absolutely nothing to do with where the cursor is on screen, you could be looking straight down your finger at the screen and the cursor will likely be off to the side somewhere. It’s a lot more like an overblown motion control mouse. Second of all, the cursor hops around a lot, unable to really lock on to a single space. You’ll frequently find that it recalibrates as you move it, making you spend extra effort to make it line up with a target. Third of all, simply lining the cursor up with a target gives you points. There’s no extra points for precision or anything like that. Fourth of all, you are supposed to avoid hitting skull targets which make you lose points, except these targets just pop up out of nowhere half the time and if they pop up under your cursor, well, sucks to be you. There’s nothing interesting or compelling about this game, and the fact that it was made when we already have had motion control games with fun and interesting archery competitions feels like the programmers were just being lazy.
The biggest problem with the game, is that multplayer just doesn’t seem to work. The Kinect senses one body just fine, but two bodies causes every game in the compilation to either spaz out or suffer from serious input lag. So you can’t challenge your friends to endless games of tennis, like you were able to in Wii Sports, without getting frustrated. This leaves the single player mode, with its uninspired cutscenes, meaningless level progression, and online leaderboards to hold you over, and honestly it’s just not enough. I don’t care if someone has a better time in Wake Race than me. I don’t care if someone is a motion controlled tennis master. It still doesn’t feel like I’m actually playing the games any better when my score goes up. I’m just mastering a flawed control scheme a little bit more. That’s all.
You can squeeze a little bit of fun out of Kinect Sports Rivals . Some of the games aren’t so bad and it certainly stands as a great demo of what the new Kinect can do. You can also have the game render a rule 63 version of yourself and… shut up… I was just curious what female me looked like. You even get an achievement for it. So that’s kind of neat. It’s just that every game in the compilation is shallow when done in single-player and broken when done in multiplayer. Even though you may have fun with the games that actually work, there’s little here to keep you coming back to play them again a second time.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The graphics for characters kind of hit the uncanny valley, but for everything else they are pretty impressive. 2.0 Control
Hey look. More motion controls that only work half of the time. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is wholly unremarkable and generic and the voice acting is made up of cartoony performances and forced grunts of exertion and jubilance. 2.8 Play Value
There are some good games here, but you won’t play them more than once. 2.7 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|