Thank you for tuning in to Wii Spo- I mean, MOTIONSports!
So the Kinect is here, and along with it comes a slew of games all ready to show the world what the new hardware is capable of. And I was asked to take on the task of working though and reviewing MotionSports, a collection of sports mini-games that is absolutely not like Wii Sports. How might that be, you say? A collection of sports games played by waving your arms around like a madman? Well, it's partially because these games are different than Nintendo's pack-in title, and partially because I got so frustrated playing every one of them that I wanted to punch one of the cute little Kinectimals I saw Nick tossing beach balls to.
[image1]There are six games total in this full-price package: Football, Skiing, Boxing, Soccer, Hang Gliding, and Horseback Riding. Each one has a selection of stages that need to be unlocked by getting good scores on previous challenges. So, earn a gold and move on to the next game, right? It's basic in premise, but in action it's - put bluntly - a disaster.
Visually, they're all right, kind of middle-of-the-road for Xbox 360 standards, but the movements are hardly smooth on screen at all. Each mini-game has you find yourself with a generic figure, whether in horseback riding garb or a skin-tight suit or whatever, without the ability to create a character to add personality. With a game like this, it's all about integration with the player, so leaving out a feature like that - and instead using the camera to put the player's face on a magazine cover or newspaper front page like that never-quite-right photo booth at the mall - is just sad and detracts from the experience.
The only game in the collection that's "unique", or "works how one would not imagine it would in real life", is Horseback Riding. The rest of them are variations of what one might think that they should control like. Soccer is running up to a spot on the floor and kicking the ball in any direction, which works about as well poking a ghost in the eye with a pole vault pole... frustrating to a fault.
[image2]Actually controlling each game is very bland, most of the games being simple “run and kick the ball” or “move to the left” experiences. The overall detection of moving left and right is fine, though there are some latency issues, but any game that needs any sort of precise movement – kicking a ball or making a sharp turn – and that latency turns into a serious hindrance. It affects the play so much that some of the games become basically unplayable.
Some of the sports can be amusing, though. The skiing mini-game is enjoyable purely because it's reminiscent of the old arcade game Alpine Racer. Nearly every game under the skiing banner is a race, either alone or with competition. Controlling is simply shifting one's weight back and forth, with the occasional pull of invisible ski poles. It's one of the few that works, but works awkwardly since the movement on-screen is slippery and a half-second late. In the middle of a race, that kind of delay is simply inexcusable.
But the most entertainingly horrible mini-game is the hang-gliding. Its controls are painful and unreliable: try holding your arms out like an elderly person with a walker, then lean in any direction with those arms out like that. Hold them there. For minutes at a time. Think it sounds easy? I already have an irritated shoulder. On top of that, you don't have a clear path to follow, causing massive confusion when the little flying fella is heading off the play field. It's clearly the worst mini-game on the disk. The only perk is being able to fly the guy into a rock face, and watching the glass face on their helmet crack open. Classic.
When a package like Wii Sports comes bundled with its respective system and has a few control issues, it's not only expected, but also forgiven. I mean c'mon, it's free! But when a company is asking you to pay full price for what is, essentially, a collection of mini-games that don't handle well, it's just wrong. The Kinect might be going through something similar to what the Wii went through early on, but hopefully it gets through the growing pains... this one's gotta hurt.