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Kinect Sports season 2: Review

I am happy to admit that Kinect Sports (season 1) was always my pick of Kinect’s first year of releases, as a gamer that never touched a Wii I was immune to the similarities drawn to Nintendo’s cutesy platform. I am also happy to admit that having spent the majority of my 40 odd years playing games, I have spent quite some time at the controls of a lot of titles from developer Rare, this gave me some hope towards the quality of the game and it’s ability to deliver.

Fast forward to November 2011, the Kinect market penetration marches on and sequels to the more popular games are inevitably appearing. So, can Kinect Sports (season 2) make it in the big leagues?

There are improvements, of that there is no doubt it is apparent from the get go, my main criticism of the first game in the series was of the appalling navigation system. Menu selection was slow and cumbersome, much like the standard Microsoft selectors in the first iterations of the dashboard and by drilling down into game modes you soon found yourself buried at the bottom of a menu tree facing the long trudge back to the main front end. KS2 has addressed this well, the navigation is snappy and sensible, you are never far away from the root menu and it does not feel like a chore to get down to the level you require. The of course there is the voice control functionality, yes, even in our region. It works well and after a few attempts to sound confident the xbox will acknowledge you, then shout out ‘Home’ or ‘Next’ and things will happen, it is very much a ‘say what you see’ method, just go with it.

As for the events, the game has dropped all events that were in the first version and moved towards what can only be described as ‘a strange bag’.

First up is the American Football, fans of the game may get more from calling out plays and pushing the ball upfield, but it all boils down to a throw, a catch and a little bit of running on the spot. It is not a bad creation for a Kinect game, but I wonder after it shows its true colours how much pull there would be to come back. I guess you have to enjoy American Football to get this one and I found myself hoping the session would end sooner than later.

Then we have Darts, an odd choice I believe and unlikely one if there was a plan to get some public voting on the subject. It’s Darts, stand in front of the screen, take aim and throw. The trouble with this event is the lack of finesse that would be needed in a real match, the cumbersome crosshair and some wobbly aiming makes the game quite tiresome.

Baseball does what it needs to, you have a whole two innings to score more than your opponent. Baseball games used to be big business and there was some strategy to loading the bases or hitting out of the park sluggers. This version offers a fair representation, however there is often the feeling of hand-holding in the background. Again it can be fun and I would imagine Party Play would hit home.

Tennis offers a match and some games can run on, the mechanics are on the whole effective although I question some of the shots that are coming out of my contact. After rattling through a few games you have to wonder how much of these events are on autopilot. Tennis is one of the better offerings in the package, but I feel it pales in comparison to the KS1 Table Tennis, where the controls suited the game.

Second best in the combo is the downhill slkiiing, I would have cringed if somebody else said that, but it really is true. The Avatar connection to your activity is well orchestrated and there are multiple tracks on offer. I really enjoy the feeling of hurtling downhill at maximum velocity while sweeping between flags and lifting of some big jumps. Skiiing and Golf will be me ‘return to’ events of that there is no doubt.

Golf stacks up as the best offering for me and could quite easily have been a standalone game. The pace is about right, the courses look really nice and the voice interaction. Handles well. There is something satisfying about swinging away at a ball you can’t afford to miss.

As well as the main events and similarly to KS1 You have access to a range of mini-games, these have also been bolstered by a few extras that have also recently been delivered to the Marketplace. The mini-games in KS1 were a lot of fun, when you get get them going these are too and they also offer fun in their own way, they can also be added to the ‘Challenge Mode’ this is a nice ability of the game to share some multiplayer with friends that may be offline. Just pick your mode, hopefully it is a good run of performance and then send the challenge. Your friend will get a notification in their game and try to better your performance for that event. This can go on, swapping events and building up some bragging rights.

Overall the game is continuing the Kinect traditdion well, personally I have much softer spot for the first game, let’s hope Rare have something up their sleeves for the inevitable third. However I would be more interested in updated versions of standalone games like the Soccer from KS1 and the Golf from KS2 being the most obvious.