Kinect Adventures Review

Dan Webb (GT: Webb x360a)

It took me one hour to see what Kinect’s bundle software, Kinect Adventures, had to offer. It took me two to see the trend it was taking as I stepped up the difficulties. And it took me three hours before I thought to myself, “Actually, I’m quite bored of this now...” It’s a good job the software comes free with the device then, because otherwise it would be hard to recommend Good Science’s collection of mini-games to anyone apart from people with money to burn. That’s not to say that Kinect Adventures isn’t a fun piece of software... it is, but unfortunately that fun doesn’t last long, as repeating the same 5 mini-games over and over tends to get old fast.

"There's a joke about a quack in here somewhere..."

“Who doesn’t love adventure?”, is essentially the first question that Kinect Adventures poses you, as it asks you to clear a large playing area about 6 foot away from the device in order to participate. However, that’s only if you’re playing on your lonesome; if you want to play side-by-side with a friend, expect that distance to be more like 7 or 8 foot – with plenty of room left and right too.

As you can probably gather by my rather blunt opening, Kinect Adventures in essence is a collection of 5 rather diverse mini-games, all of which can be incredibly strenuous and tiring if you put in the required effort. The 5 games do a great job in showcasing the various talents and capabilities of Kinect, and range from Rallyball, Space Pop, and 20,000 Leaks, all the way through to the more active Reflex Ridge and River Rush.

The general make-up of the game is simple: you can tackle the mini career of sorts called ‘Adventures,’ play individual mini-games under the heading of ‘Free Play,’ participate in ‘Time Trials,’ head online to challenge fellow gamers around the world or various timed challenges that you can unlock by completing various events in Adventures mode. It doesn’t get much more complex than that.

The Adventures mode will provide most of the fun, allowing you to gain medals from bronze to platinum in all of the 5 mini-game modes. Perform well enough in each event and not only will you unlock harder difficulties and gear for your Avatar, but you’ll also on the odd occasion win Living Statues, that perform the movements and make the sounds that you can set after you’ve won it. It’s an amusing take on something traditional, that’s for sure. Once you’ve saved your statue, you can even upload it and share it online with your friends – and the same goes for the photos that the game snaps after every mini-game – of which there are a lot, considering it stores 3 every short turn.

"Spaceman, I've always wanted to go to space... man."

Whilst in the Adventures mode, the aim of the game is to collect enough Adventure pins from each mini-game to earn more medals, thus meeting certain goals, which in turn opens up the more challenging difficulties. Incidentally, that’s where the bigger challenge and most fun lies. Enough about the make-up and structure of the game... on with the mini-games!

It would be wrong of me to talk about any other mini-game than Rallyball first – considering this was Microsoft’s tech demo for its first Kinect unveiling last year. In short, it’s a 3D version of Arkanoid where you’re the paddle. That’s about as complex as it gets actually and the objective is exactly the same in both – clear the blocks. Here though you can lose as many balls as you want, so long as you clear the blocks in time, which in a way is a good job considering that when you nail a ball and it flies back at you at break-neck speeds, not only does a little latency come into play with your on-screen Avatar, but also it’s quite difficult to understand the spatial perception of where the ball will fly back at you. Physics and that minor complexity aside, it’s good fun.

Space Pop is the second of the more laid-back, less gut-busting mini-games, which places you in a cube shaped room with holes all over the walls and floor. Your aim? To pop the bubbles as they come out these holes by using the floor of your play space to navigate the base of the cube, while also flapping your arms to float to the top. I have to say that out of the games, this really showcased the device to its full potential the most, as you literally have to navigate a cube-shaped box on your floor, waving your arms wherever you go, and low and behold, the device tracks you wherever you stand. It’s a simple mechanic and in truth, it’s a mini-game that doesn’t last long, but it’s thinking outside the box a little more than the other games.

Speaking of boxes... ever got stuck in a glass box underneath the sea where the local sea-life are constantly trying to smash the bugger? No? Well you’ve not played 20,000 Leaks then, which is essentially just that. As the fish bash into the box you must rush around rubbing the cracks until they disappear earning pins in the process. Every so often though, you’ll have to do a combo repair, using multiple limbs in multiple places at the same time; which is essential if you’re going to finish off the round and snag the leftover time as bonus pins.

"An example of the original Living Statues."

The fourth game – and possibly the most difficult to control – is River Raft, which has you flying down a river in a rubber dinghy, attempting to get all the Adventure pins along the way to gain the bigger and more prestigious medals. Step left and the raft goes left, step right and... yes, you guessed it. Jump up and the raft hops up. With many paths to follow, ramps to spring off and rapids to traverse, it makes it a little tricky to keep total control over the boat at all times. It’s possibly the weaker of the 5 game modes, but by no means any less fun.

Possibly my favourite game mode out of the 5 is what Good Science call Reflex Ridge, which is essentially an on-rails game where you have to avoid obstacles on a mine cart which travels along a set of rickety old tracks. The game will have you ducking, jumping, moving from side to side and waving your arms – sometimes together – as you collect all the Adventure pins that are situated in very carefully planned places along the track. There are even handrails to grab onto to thrust yourself forward to gain more speed at various junctures, meaning you can finish quicker and grab that time bonus. It’s a fairly simple mini-game, like something out of Takeshi’s Castle, but definitely one of the more intense ones that really does show the potential that Kinect really has to offer. It is bloody tiring though, especially on the harder difficulties, but that’s when it’s at its most fun.

The achievement list for Kinect Adventures in many ways is similar to the game itself – a distinct lack of depth and plenty of repetition. In short, the list basically gets you to do one thing and then repeat it until you’ve bored yourself to tears: essentially getting a gold medal in every Free Play event and completing every Adventures difficulty level. In other words, do the mini-games over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. Yeah, not ideal. There are a few for uploading stuff, checking out your own stored photos, and posing for all the Living Statues, but these are few and far between. Using only 32 of the 50 allowed achievements as well either shows a distinct lack of care about them, or truly shows how shallow the game really is.

If anything though, Kinect Adventures serves as a showcase for the freedom that the Kinect device allows games of this ilk, but like its first-party brother, Kinect Sports, the required space needed for you to fully enjoy the game is quite expansive. By only offering 5 mini-games, the longevity of the title is most definitely its drawback and considering that each mini-game only sees variations of it used to spice things up, it quickly descends into repetition valley. The 5 mini-games ultimately can be a lot of fun and very responsive too, but it’s quite clear that the game is made for multiplayer antics, so you’ll need to be prepared to clear a whopping amount of space to do so if you want to unleash that part of the game. It’s good as a tech demo and in short bursts, but don’t expect it to grab your attention for too long. It’s free though, so who can knock that? Oh, we can apparently.

If you looked up quirky in the dictionary, you’d see the Kinect Adventures box art. Hardly a masterpiece but its funky – albeit sometimes repetitive – music is a perfect fit.

Like the audio, the visuals are fitting with the subject material. With playful and vibrant environments, and taking full advantage of the 360’s Avatars, Kinect Adventures is nice on the old eyes.

Kinect responds quite well for the most part, but on the quicker mini-games and the harder difficulties, that latency issue plays its part again – especially on Rallyball.

Kinect Adventures is basically 5 mini-games that are rehashed over and over again. They’re fun, yes, but that’s about as deep as the game goes. You can quite easily see all it has to offer in under an hour.

Any game that only bothers to use 32 achievements is a sign that either the game lacks any kind of depth or the design team couldn’t really be bothered with them. Judging from the list – why make 4 achievements secret? – it’s a little from column A and a little from column B.

It seems as if Kinect Adventures is included with Kinect to showcase the capabilities of the device rather than provide any substantial gaming experience. It’s a game that’s fun in short bursts, but requires a ton of space for two-player multiplayer. Admittedly, Kinect Adventures starts off quite well as the Kinect bundle software, but after an hour it demonstrates its lack of depth once you realise that you’ve pretty much seen and done everything.

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