Review: Kinect Sports

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"It's almost like I'm actually hitting buttons!"

Remember that old NES track and field game that let you run on the Power Pad?  Say hello to it’s spiritual successor.After playing a few shovelware titles that came out of the woodwork as soon as the Kinect hit the shelves, I finally was able to rent this from Blockbuster.  The previous renter had it for weeks without bringing it back.  I can see why now.

You open the game and it gets to the starting screen in a stadium filled with murmuring crowds.  Upon reaching your hand up to select “Start” the audience roars with excitement.  You put your hands back down and they go back to their anticipating murmurs.  I literally spent the first 5-10 minutes of the game making the audience go wild and doing the wave.  Good way to get you into the game right off the bat.

The game is pretty simple as a whole.  Very reminiscent of Wii Sports.  You have a few different sports to choose from and some mini-games for each as well.

Football:  Yes.  It actually says football in the game, not soccer, in case you don’t know what the rest of world calls it.  This was a fun game for me because it’s the only mainstream sport I ever got even somewhat decent at as a child.  It doesn’t allow dribbling the ball down the field as much though and becomes more like a game of ultimate frisbee.  So you receive the ball, come to a stop, then have a defender in your face whom you must either pass or shoot past.  No fancy footwork here.  As soon as you pass to the next individual, you become them and can then pass or shoot again.  Gives you the more exciting parts of the game without having all the boring running and dribbling.

Bowling:  It’s surprisingly sensitive and is on par with the Wii bowling.  Only thing that takes getting used to is having to actually pick up your bowling ball from the return.  If you move too quickly or jerk around too much you’ll either find yourself not picking it up or dropping it instantly into the lane for a quick gutter ball.

Track and Field:  This is the reason for getting this game right here.  It puts 5 events into one big tournament; sprint, javelin, long jump, discuss throw, and hurdles.  At the starting line they call on your mark, get set, then time slows and goes to silence except for a heart beat.  Thump thump, thump thump, thump thump, GUNSHOT.  Instantly you are transported to your childhood days of running on that plastic NES mat that slowly slid away from you.  After each event the game goes over a slow motion highlight finish.  In each they use some sort of music to fit the mood such as “We Are the Champions” or “Chariots of Fire”.  Really accentuates the win to have the crowd cheering and music blaring.  The javelin, long jump, and discuss throw seem more of the “don’t screw up” and you win variety.  I know for a fact my brother can get further in a long jump, but in this game I won solely because I was able to not fault each time.

Boxing:  Careful with those wide hooks… you may just smack the guy standing next to you in the real world.  The kinect surprised me with the ability to follow each punch pretty closely with aim, direction, and speed.  My younger brother got a “flawless victory” the first time we played by playing the same way you do on the Wii… swinging as fast and wild as humanly possible.  It worked for the first round, but unlike the Wii which only requires a simple flick to get the full effect, he was completely winded by round 2 from his windmill tactics outside the game.

Beach Volleyball:  Still no movement allowance from your standing point, but the game will move you within range if possible.  It will highlight the location around you the ball will be heading and you have to get a limb of some sort into that area to keep it up.  Setting, bumping, and spiking all have a place within the game as well.

Table Tennis:  Here to let you live out your Forrest Gump fantasies.  Nice and smooth.  Only quirks I found here were if you stuttered with your hand you could end up confusing the game at the moment of impact with all sorts of results.

The mini-games allow for some interesting concepts that you don’t normally get to try.  For example, bowling has one that has you bowling as many pins over as fast as possible, within a set time frame.  I eventually came to the point where I was bowling both left and right-handed alternating throws about a second apart.  About a third to half of the throws went completely off course and didn’t help, but seeing 5-8 bowling balls all flying down a lane at once is something that should be allowed at all establishments.

As a whole?  Kinect Sports is a fun casual game to play with your friends at home.  If you want to get a little more competitive?  Be ready to collapse on the couch, sweating profusely, cocky insults flying between gasps for air.  Still a few glitches that can be fixed with time and experience, but that’s what you get with new equipment.

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