Kinect Sports came onto the scene along with the shiny new Kinect hardware last year. Much like Wii Sports did, it served as an example of what the tool was capable of. However, though it had its frustrations, it still was an enjoyable experience. Getting up off of the couch and going through the basic motions of the included sports carried with it a sense of novelty. Your body was the controller. It was cool. It wasn’t a fantastic video game, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Now, a year later, Kinect Sports: Season Two is here to serve as yet another demonstration of the hardware, and to show how it has improved since launch. After playing each of the six included sports to its fullest, I can safely say that this game is once again enjoyable. But does it do enough to warrant a full purchase?
This year, you’ll be thrown into some more involved gameplay. Instead of just on motion represented in a sport, you’ll be responsible for much more. This makes it more fun and more frustrating at the same time, because while there is more to do, there are more movements for the game to miss, and more chances for you to be disappointed. Many movements work very well, but at times there is a sense of a lack of connection.
Let’s start with golf, which is definitely one of my favorites. Since there is no swing meter that tells you how far back you’re pulling the club, how hard you’re swinging, or how your contact is, it is a very organic experience. You’re forced to learn the feel of the game with time, which is rewarding if you practice. You’ll know that you’re supposed to hit a long, medium, or short shot, but apart from that, it’s up to you. Golf is at the same time the simplest game, but also the most involved game in that it takes time to master.
Tennis, on the other hand, is my least favorite game. It’s mostly an exercise in timing which leaves you simply trying not to pop the ball up into the air so the opponent can put it away with a smash. On the plus side, it makes for some long, heart-pumping volleys, but only because you’re concentrating so hard on moving your hand forward at the correct moment. There’s really no strategy that has anything to do with tennis.
Baseball is my favorite game due to the pitching mechanics, and the fun that can be had in two-player action. The pitching is confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, there actually is a good bit of variety to the pitches you can throw and how you can throw them, making it very challenging for a human hitter to connect effectively. Catching the ball in the field is a blast, as is running the bases. I’m not convinced that my particular actions have that much to do with what happens in the game, but it sure is hilarious to watch your friends run in place as fast as they possibly can, screaming at the avatar to run faster. This hilarity, combined with the legitimately enjoyable pitching mechanics, make for an overall great experience worth repeating.
The other mainstream sport represented here is America’s great game: football. Football is the one offering here that makes you wish you could do more. It’s not a bad game; it’s just that you don’t have that much control over what happens outside of the pass. To start a play, you choose to throw a short, medium, or long pass, and then you drop back and throw. Now comes the running up-field, which consists of running in place as fast as you can much like baseball. You can’t juke, spin, or jump, all of which would seem to lend themselves to the Kinect hardware. You simply run until you get tackled. You’ll also notice that you don’t play defense. The opponent’s drives are simply glossed over until you’re back on offense. The goal here was to get a full football field with numerous players on it, and they succeeded. In the future, it would be awesome to get a more full-featured football experience. But hey, after all, this isn’t Madden.
I also quite enjoyed skiing, I suspect due to the fact that it involves much more fluid activity as opposed to short, separated, hit-or-miss motions. You’ll lean left or right to steer, jump at the top of jumps to get air, spread your legs for sharp turns, and crouch to gain speed. If there is one game that does the best job of reading your body motions, this is it. It’s not overly in-depth in fact it’s very simple but it’s the most visceral experience of them all.
And last, but not least, is darts. Darts is the game that is sort of just
there. It’s fun to jump back into every now and then, but at the end of the day, you’re just pulling your hand back and pushing it forward again and again. I can’t say that the motion detection is poor, because 90% of the time it works great. However, every once in a while, the aiming reticle snaps almost off-screen for no apparent reason, causing a bad miss. Even though it works so well the majority of the time, you’re just left wondering when the next mess-up will happen.
Don’t let any of the annoyances portrayed here fool you it’s my job to point them out. However, the bottom line is that Kinect Sports: Season Two is a lot of fun to play. It’s not a game you’ll play for hours on end, but instead it’s one you’ll pull out when friends come over for a fun couple of minutes. The hardware has come a long way, even since last year, and I’m excited to see what developers do in the future to take advantage of it. I fully recommend this game for the quick fun it provides.