As with Wii and the recently launched PlayStation Move controller, the Xbox 360’s Kinect needs a piece of software to teach the basics of gaming in this new spectrum, to introduce controller-free gameplay. Unlike Wii Sports and Sports Champions however, Microsoft has chosen to offer their sports package as an optional extra, choosing instead to bring a mix of ‘adventure’ games to first-time users.
Kinect Adventures is obviously designed with both the Xbox 360’s core audience and the Kinect’s target audience in mind, offering both simple, immediate gameplay and a more enduring, rewards-based mode. The Free Play mode is the central option on the menu, and undoubtedly considered the primary gameplay mode. Here, players can access all of the six games on any of their four difficulty settings at any point, graded with a bronze, silver, gold or platinum medal for their performance. Players can of course unlock Achievements by completing the stages available in Free Play, but no other meta-rewards (unlockables or other such bonuses) are available here.
Adventure mode is the core of the game for the challenge-hungry audience. Offering four Adventure series of increasing difficulty and number of events, completion of the Adventure mode offers Living Statues – animated trophies that mark your success and, along with the photos taken during a game, can be uploaded to kinectshare.com for sharing with friends on social networking websites or download to your PC. A final option, Timed Play, alters the games from score attacks to time-pressured events, which acts as an additional distraction rather than a distinguished third mode.
Of the games included, Rally Ball and River Rush are undoubtedly the most impressive. Rally Ball was one of the earliest revealed Kinect games (formerly known as Ricochet), and River Rush has been the most discussed aspect of Kinect Adventures prior to launch. Considering Kinect is supposedly designed to breakaway from videogame tradition, the River Rush component of Kinect Adventures is surprisingly conformist. The idea being to collect Adventure Pins on your way down the course – the greater the number collected effectively being your success rate, with better medals awarded at set totals – River Rush features all the depth you would expect in a videogame of such a nature: alternate paths, hidden jumps and cloud-based roadways that require intricate skill or blind luck to land upon.
20,000 Leaks is an enjoyable experience, if somewhat lightweight by comparison to Rally Ball, River Rush and Reflex Ridge, while Space Pop is undoubtedly the most ill conceived of all the included games. Tasking the player with manoeuvring around a 3D space directed by their arm movements, bubbles appear from each a foreground and background series of dispensers. The control of your on-screen avatar is simply too loose to deliver a respectably entertaining experience, and more-often-than-not simply flapping your arms about will deliver similar results to attempting precise manoeuvres.
Playing online is a simple set-up, at first given the option to invite friends, or choosing to locate any online player via the menu. The online gameplay is just as cautionary as sharing your images or Living Trophies online, obviously designed with young children in mind, but doesn’t restrict playing together at all, simply the level of communication allowed. The resulting effect is one that’s much more approachable than Wii’s frustrating Friend Code system, but just as secure.
The visual quality of Kinect Adventures is of course of a reasonable standard throughout, putting your Xbox 360 Avatars into a variety of different environments. Everything is presented in more than respectable manner, making the touch-to-proceed effect of Kinect immediately accessible to all players, familiar with game menus or otherwise. River Rush again takes the spotlight as the best looking event on offer, with expansive, varied levels and some fantastic water effects, while Space Pop again falls behind with the most dull appearance of all.
Kinect Adventures is not just the first game early adopters of Kinect will experience, but also the first game from Microsoft Game Studios’ new studio, Good Science (formerly known as SpawnPoint). As such, it’s hard to fault a game which has obviously been given the directive of competing with Wii Sports, and doing it in such a way that will encourage games from all walks-of-life, not just those who wouldn’t consider themselves gamers. Kinect Adventures doesn’t break the motion-control pack-in mould, but it certainly supports the argument that an easily digestible introduction will leave you hungry for more.