There’s nothing fashionable about being late.
It’s refreshing to see Microsoft play the role of inexperienced upstart. Watching the global software giant follow so closely in Nintendo’s footsteps is a bit like watching Donald Trump learn ballet from Baryshnikov. All the money in the world can’t make you suddenly look nimble and elegant in an unfamiliar discipline. Luckily for Microsoft, it’s clear that with Kinect Sports they’re only aiming for the community theater crowd rather than the Bolshoi Theater hardcore.
[image1]Kinect Sports isn’t nearly the eye-opening experience that Wii Sports was, though it does have its own small charms. However, with four years now standing between the two very similar games, it’s hard not to feel a sense of dull familiarity. Seeing Mii-like Avatars in the same brightly-lit bowling alleys, soccer fields, and boxing rings diminishes from whatever freshness the title might otherwise have had. Photos of seniors virtually bowling while attached to oxygen tubes can only be new once.
More than any of the other launch titles for Microsoft’s new controller-free device, Kinect Sports looks and feels like it was cooked up in a business meeting. It’s so slavishly devoted to retreading Nintendo’s well-worn example that it misses the opportunity to show off what the technology can really do. So desperate to reignite the fire that the big N lit way back in 2006, Kinect Sports ends up seeming outmoded right out of the gates.
Most of the games in Kinect Sports require you to do nothing more than stick out a limb in a particular direction. Motion and momentum don’t matter as much as hitting the correct point in space. For example, to play soccer just stick out a leg in front of you and hold it there. The ball will continue to be passed forward and kicked into the goal as it moves from player to player. To change directions, just point your foot in a different direction. Defense demands a bit more variation, but just barely.
[image2]In fact, the game does a better job of recognizing what it is you’re trying to do when you play this way. If you try to play it as it was designed—by doing a full kicking motion—you more often run the risk of the camera not detecting the correct movement. The other games in this collection all suffer from similar shortcomings.
Bowling, however, is a complete mess. Rather than trying to duplicate the motions of actual bowling as in Wii Sports, bowling in Kinect Sports works instead by a series of obtuse and imprecise gesture combinations. Aiming the ball is clunky, and since you can’t see your bowler’s feet, you can’t tell where you’re standing. There’s none of the impressive and unexpected finesse found in Nintendo’s motion-based bowling game from four years ago. Worse, to add any spin to the ball, you have to swipe your entire arm across your body. Clearly bowling in Kinect Sports wasn’t designed by anyone who has ever actually bowled. Needless to say, The Dude would not stand for this aggression, man.
The track and field events are utterly forgettable and repetitive, and noticeable lag in detecting motions makes boxing and table tennis unplayable with any seriousness. Volleyball and soccer are the two big takeaways here, but your tolerance for them will depend entirely on how entertained you are by simply pointing your limbs at points in space.
[image3]Ultimately, Kinect Sports is a rough launch title that’s all about the novelty of Kinect. And judging by the endless stream of photos and videos circulating online over the past week, the secret selling point of the game may actually be the ability to share stupid photos and videos of you and your stupid loved ones looking stupid doing really stupid things with your stupid limbs. [Why, that's genius! ~Ed.]
Trust me: Even if you think your videos are hilarious, no one else does… unless, of course, you capture yourself giving a shiner to an errant four-year-old. That’s
not recommended funny.