Review: Kinect Sports

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First impressions can be a bad thing – and the funny thing is in this case, I bet you’re guilty of the same thoughts I had as soon as I heard about Kinect Sports. Something along the lines of “it’ll be exactly like Wii Sports, only in HD”, right?

I – and possibly you – were wrong.

By Rare, the brains behind everything from Nintendo’s GoldenEye 007 and Donkey Kong64 to Microsoft’s current Xbox avatars and Viva Pinata, Kinect Sports is far more than a Kinect showcase and pack-in title (besides, that was Kinect Adventures). I’d even go so far to say that Kinect Sports is my favourite Kinect launch title. Why? Read on to find out!

The hot: Take that first impression you formed merely from hearing the game’s title and throw that out the window. Kinect Sports may look a bit Wii-ish, but the similarities end as soon as you start playing. Well…maybe if you play anything but bowling or boxing.

The Track and Field events really get you moving. Sprinting, jumping, throwing – you’ll get a big full-body workout from the events; beat THAT, Wii arm waggle! Beach volleyball is fast-paced and quite challenging, especially when you move past Beginner or Amateur modes and head into Professional or Champion difficulties. Football (aka soccer) starts off slow but quickly grows on you, and table tennis requires quite a bit of strategy as you progress through difficulty levels as well.

What I found I enjoyed more than the stock-standard events were the mini-games found within Kinect Sports. Personal favourites include Target Kick and Super Saver, both Football mini-games, and Pin Rush (bowling). If you download the free Samsung DLC, you get access to even more mini-games; I consider Rapid Runner (Track and Field) to be one of the most challenging games I’ve played on my Xbox…obtaining the ‘Kilometer King’ achievement (for running 1km before time ran out) basically killed me.

The meh: If you’ve got a small apartment (hello!), then you’ll need to milk every centimetre of space you have to enjoy the game. If you’re playing with a friend, try a staggered stance (one to the left and in front, one to the right and behind) to make sure you don’t punch your comrade in the face.

The cold: For some reason, Kinect Sports‘ menu is extremely unresponsive. It uses the same interface as the Kinect hub, in that you move your hand to select an option and hold for a moment to confirm it – it just does so poorly. In low light, in normal light, or in extreme light…it doesn’t matter; you’ll hold to select an option and the game will suddenly decide you’ve FLUNG your arm to the left or right when you haven’t moved a muscle. It’s like the game has decided that you REALLY don’t want to play mini-games, or select players…

You can get over the menu controlling poorly, but when it happens in events, you’ll feel far less forgiving. Bowling is absolutely broken. You’re instructed to move your arm across your body to spin the ball in that direction – so as a right-handed bowler, I bowl and bring my arm to my left shoulder. That somehow makes the ball spin violently to the left in some cases, and to the right in others. Same movement, completely different outcomes. At least in Wii Sports you can correct a mean spin by watching your wrist and ensuring you don’t over-rotate. Discus controls just as bad.

Worst yet are the tutorials that play every single time you start a sports event. Every single time. Unless you hit ‘Skip’, or, slightly better yet ‘Turn Off’. The problem with the latter is that you’d expect ‘Turn Off’ to work across the game and not just per-event. Surely the game can use the save data it automatically records to tell which games a player has tried, and which he/she has not. The tutorial system is clunky, wastes time, and is just purely frustrating.

On the whole, you quickly forget about the bad things and focus on the good – you’re moving your whole body to mimic playing a sport and each moment makes you feel as if you’re literally out on a field or a beach doing it. You’ll be tired after a short session, and after playing the game for a lengthy period of time, you’ll need a shower. The whole time, you’ll be smiling. It’s a great game, amazing on your own or with a friend, and the mini-games will have you coming back again and again to try to best your previous score. This game get a solid On Fire! from this reviewer.