Rare, what happened to you? You used to be cool. You kept a vise grip on my childhood with games like Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct, and GoldenEye 007. Heck, even more recent efforts like Kameo and Viva Pinata carried certain charms. What happened? Now you're making a glorified tech demo for a motion control system. Shame...
Okay, that intro may have been a little harsh, because with all honesty, Kinect Sports: Season 2 is not a bad game. It even approximates fun in the right setting with the right expectations. Much like Wii Sports and countless other motion controlled sports collections across various platforms, KS:S2 gives you a half-dozen sports to flail about with in an attempt to keep you active without having to actually go outside.
With a cute presentation starring your own personal Xbox avatars and a great soundtrack (including that Duck Sauce "Barbara Streissand" song, Hey Ya by OutKast, and Jump Around by House of Pain), the charm of the whole experience may just win you over. Most charming of all is at various points in the game, when you're successful, you can do custom celebrations. This means you can to the robot or the chicken wing, and your on screen avatar will mimic your motions. This is especially fun when playing online against other people. The game will also record your motions and show them to you at the end of each session for sharing online. Internet ridicule now included at no extra cost. Kids will definitely love it though.
We'll run down the sports in order from best to worst. My personal favourite was skiing, this particular game is fast, simple to play, and addictive. The set up is simple. You simply tilt your body in the direction you want to steer and jump when you reach the end of a jump. You and a friend (either online or off) race each other to the bottom while slaloming through gates.
Next best on the list would be golf. Using an elegant set of controls, you can choose your clubs with motion controls or your voice, aim your shots by stepping forward or backward, and swing with surprising efficiency. Putting and long drives feel equally satisfying. You can play a single hole, three holes, or nine hole games with up to four players. Golf is not only one of the most fun, but also includes the most content in the package.
Next up is Baseball, which gives you a surprising amount of freedom in how you play. You bat, you pitch, you catch, and you even base run. Batting is pretty much self explanatory. You stand in batting stance and aim for the fences. Depending on your timing, you could hit a homer, strike out, or hit a medium range ball that has you running in place and extending your leg to slide into first base. The game informs you what kind of pitches CPU players don't like, such as slow left handed pitches or right handed curve balls. When playing with two players, it can actually become a pretty intense pitching duel. When you're fielding, if a ball is knocked towards one of your players, you'll have to match the position of your glove hand to an on screen cursor to make the catch.
After those three games, things start to go downhill pretty fast. Tennis isn't necessary bad per se, it's just generic and has little over the version we played in Wii Sports in 2006. you simply swing your hand in place of a racket to hit a variety of different shots like top spins, slices, and lobs. The AI gets pretty relentless in this one, so kids may get frustrated. It also takes a while to compensate for the Kinect's lag in this game, and it even creates some awkward graphical moments where you hit the ball back even though it clearly missed your racket. Backhands also barely work most of the time.
Football is a pretty miserable experience, but even this sport fares better than the atrocity that is yet to come. This is an extremely gimped, playground version of football. For starters, you only play on the offensive side of the ball. Defense is completely handled by simulated graphs in between your offensive rushes. You also only get four downs to make a scoring play. No fighting for yardage or to make that last second first down. Make it the whole way down the field or turn the ball over. Play selections are incredibly limited to six options, and if you ask the coach for his suggestions, he'll take over for the rest of the game until you manage to switch it over, which is harder said than done when the play calling screen stays up for only two seconds. You hike the ball by calling out "hike" or by simply crouching and then standing. Then you get the ball to a rusher or receiver and run in place. There's no jukes or dekes either, you simply run in place until the game decides to tackle you. Sometimes you'll run 70 yards, sometimes you'll get sacked right off the bat. Sometimes you can kick field goals too. One thing is for sure, you better like running in place if you're going to get any enjoyment out of this one. You do this over and over and over again until the game ends. Since there's no defence on this one, there's also no multiplayer.
As bad as football is, it's a game of the year candidate compared to the unplayable nightmare that is darts. This game is simply flat out broken, and no amount of kinect tuning will make it playable. The idea is that you aim your hand precisely with an on screen cursor, pull your hand back, and then throw a shot. It doesn't work. The cursor spazzes out all over the place and is impossible to settle down. Then the game will randomly throw darts for you when you don't make the motions to do so. For an activity like darts that demands pinpoint precision, it becomes obvious that the Kinect hardware, while amazing for certain applications, still has a long way to go to perfectly mimic the motions of a real human being.
Included in the package are some multiplayer options. Most of the sports allow you to play with other people either in a live setting or online, and in a nice touch, you can send challenges out to your friends to top your scores and achievements in game. Each sport also comes with a special mini-game version of the sport for some added value.
When it all comes down to it, most players will likely try each sport once, play the ones they like a few extra times afterwards, and then move on. Any fans of the real sports will likely either play them in real life, or have a more fully fleshed out video game version already on their shelf. All the motion controls in the world can't change that fact, and Kinect Sports suffers for it. To be fair, most of the games aren't bad, they're just generic and boring. It might not make a bad rental for your next video game party though.