Wii Sports was the perfect pack-in for the Nintendo Wii. It showed exactly what the Wii could do, how motion controls made for a different gaming experience, and was simple enough for anyone and everyone to pick up and play. It was exactly what a pack-in game for a new piece of technology should be. I can’t quite say the same for Kinect Adventures. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely shows some of what Kinect is capable of, and it’s something everyone can literally jump-in and play, but to be honest, it sort of left me with the feeling of “That’s it? Is that all this much ballyhooed gizmo can do?” Of course Kinect is capable of more, and some of the other games in launch line-up demonstrate that, but Kinect Adventures misses the mark in so far as is it only demonstrates the very basic abilities of this new non-controller controller. Still, it does show that Kinect works, and many of the games are fun as short diversions; but Wii Sports this isn’t.
One of the things Kinect Adventures does a really good job of is introducing Kinect. It carefully walks you through the basics of making sure you have enough space, how to navigate menus with just a wave of your hand, how to get to the pause menu with just a gesture, and how you can have a friend jump in and play at any time. All of this combined with the fairly basic game choices offered here make Kinect Adventures feel more like an elaborate tutorial for setting up your Kinect than a full-blown, stand-alone game. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but those expecting a game experience more akin to Wii Sports may be disappointed. In fact, one might ask why Microsoft just didn’t pack in Kinect Sports. Well, there’s so much about Kinect that feels very Wii-too that perhaps they just wanted to avoid that most obvious of comparisons. Can’t blame them for that.
Kinect Adventures consists of five basic activities. You can go river rafting, run an obstacle course, play rally ball, plug leaky holes in a glass container under the sea or float in space and pop some bubbles. It doesn’t really help that rally ball and the popping bubbles in space kind of feel like the same activity. It made it feel like there were really four and a half different modes instead of five. Of the five, the obstacle course and rally ball are the most active, while river rafting is the most interesting. Rally ball is pretty basic, you just flail around with your limbs as you try to smash blocks with some dodge balls. It’s fun in short spurts, but there’s not much to it. The obstacle course has you jumping, ducking, and dodging objects while contorting your body to collect tiles. It’s more fun than rally ball as there’s less random flailing about and you actually need skill to get through the more difficult levels. River rafting is the most strategic as you try to move your raft by stepping left and right and jumping to get it to move around and collect tiles. The rafting game is especially fun if you get a friend to join in. It can be a challenge to coordinate your efforts, but that’s what makes it fun. The other two games aren’t quite as interesting, plugging holes in a leaky tank demonstrate the spacial recognition abilities of Kinect, but doesn’t exactly make for compelling gameplay and the whole space bubbles activity really feels like a slightly different version of rally ball.
Of course all of these mini-games are really just there to show-off what Kinect can do, and in that regard they succeed quite well. They’re all responsive and react well to your movements. The slight lag will require some adjustments to your timing, especially when playing rally ball on the higher difficulty settings, but it’s never a serious issue. I also noted that on the obstacle course that Kinect had a little trouble registering me going from a duck into a jump in quick succession. This issue was alleviated with a more exaggerated jump up, which is also better exercise, but when trying to react quickly to changing obstacles, I didn’t always think of doing that and therefore missed a few times because it couldn’t keep track of shorter hops after ducking. Kinect also shows off some of its abilities with the collectible trophies you get when going through adventure mode. Not only can you animate these trophies with your movements, but you can also give them a voice thanks to Kinect’s microphone. The trophies give you some small motivation to go through the campaign section of the game, but Kinect Adventures is still the most fun in short spurts. Finally there are the photos. Like all of the Kinect games at launch, Kinect Adventures takes photos of you to show you just how dorky you look waving your arms and legs around like a mad person. The novelty of this quickly wears off (at least for me, it hasn’t for my kids), but fortunately this is an option you can turn off.
I don’t think Kinect Adventures was the strongest pack-in for Kinect, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do; acquaint gamers with the new world of possibilities with Kinect. The selection of mini-games is so slight that this really couldn’t have worked as a full game, so in that regard it makes sense to include it with Kinect. Plus, it really is a good tutorial for getting things set up and figuring out how to use it. However, I did wonder if this was all there was to it. Most of what’s introduced here is pretty basic, and the novelty of game seeing your whole body jump wears off pretty quickly; can it do anything else? Other games put Kinect’s ability to good use; this one is really just a basic introduction. This isn’t a game you’ll be spending a lot of time with. You might pull it out to play in short spurts or to show your friends what Kinect can do, but otherwise you’ll quickly move on to more fully fleshed out titles like Kinect Sports or Dance Central.
Score out of 7:
Graphics: 5 - Very bright, friendly and colorful. You could easily mistake it for an HD Wii game.
Sound: 5 - All of the music is very energetic and bright, perfectly matching the graphics. The voice acting is all peppy and energetic. Since this is the first exposure many will have to Kinect, it’s obvious they wanted everyone to see and hear just how FUN it is. WOOHOO!
Gameplay: 4 - A pretty minimal set of activities, and one of them feels like a repeat. It shows basically what Kinect can do, works as a good introduction and tutorial, but you’ll be left wondering if Kinect is capable of more.
Control: 5 - This collection of activities shows that Kinect works, and works well. The minor lag is rarely a serious issue, and you can have fun with the camera and microphone as well. There are only a few slight hiccups as I noted, but overall this leaves a good first impression of what Kinect is capable of.
Story: N/A - Travel the world with the adventure team and do the same activities over and over again.
Content: 7 - Microsoft isn’t hiding what crowd they want with Kinect; the casual gamer, family-friendly crowd.
Final: 4 - Kinect Adventures introduces the Kinect, helps you get familiar with it and get it set up, and has some fun activities that are enjoyable in short spurts. However, it doesn’t show the full range of what you can do with Kinect, and the the novelty of the games offered here quickly wears off. I still go back and play Wii Sports every now and then - I bowl, I golf, I even play baseball - but with Kinect Adventures, I’ll probably only pull it out when showing off Kinect for the first time to someone. Then again, I think that’s what it was designed for.