Kinect Sports: Season Two
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That's the old logic-filled adage my grandfather adopted as his own. And it certainly seems to be the standard in the world of motion-sensing games—particularly when it applies to crowd-pleasing run-and-jump minigame collections. And that means Kinect Sports: Season Two won't be accused of breaking any new ground.
But, then again, neither can you accuse the NFL of adding a second ball to the mix just to spice things up in the 3rd quarter, or the MLB of tinkering with the designated hitter in … well, OK, maybe that second example isn't such a good one, but you get the point. Sports are sports are sports. Whether it's football, skiing, tennis, baseball, golf or darts—all on the roster here—the real selling point is the Kinect's hands-free controller that allows you to "play" the game almost the same way you would if you were actually on the court, on the field or on the slopes. You simply stand a few feet in front of your TV and … move!
If you're chucking darts, running down the baseline or serving for an ace, you pinch that imaginary dart in your finger tips, run in place, or swing your invisible racket overhead. It's intuitive and simple to pick up, mostly because it feels so familiar.
Hand Me That … Oh, Never Mind
With six sports favorites vying for your attention, there's bound to be something that'll click with just about anybody trying this kind of game for the first … or 50th time. For me, golf was the most comfortable fit—especially as a solo game. Driving, chipping and putting is pretty much the same as it is on other virtual golf games. Aiming your shot requires that you turn sideways, for instance, shuffle step to line things up and then swing away. Season Two's version of the game delivers scenic vistas, fun courses, amateur tips, club options and a rising level of difficulty. The movement sensitivity is nicely dialed in, doing a great job of translating the speed and oomph of my swing.
I'm not as good at skiing—certainly not in real life—but the game made it fun anyway. Young and old will find the slalom races easy to navigate as they prompt their cute cartoonish avatars to skim through gates and around obstacles simply by shifting their body to the left or right. Squatting into a tuck gains speed and a properly timed hop can launch the onscreen skier into a jump. You'll feel it in your glutes when you're done, but that's partly the point, right?
The rest of the games follow the same fun and easy routine. Football fanatics, though, should keep in mind that this is not a motion-sensing Madden title. Think of it as a simplistic, boiled-down round of toss and catch in the backyard. You play solely on offense and get a total of four throws to try to traverse the field for either a touchdown or a field goal. Done.
With tennis, baseball and darts, you swing, aim, jump and catch. But here's where a little motion-sensing stumbling seems to enter into the equation. Having to swing the bat or racket just a hair early to keep my avatar up to speed was a little annoying. And with darts, the herky-jerky aiming reticle—caused by the Kinect system struggling to keep track of my hand movements—made my tosses far more difficult than they needed to be.
Do I Have to, Gramps?!
As I was playing through some of these games I kept hearing my dearly departed grandfather's voice ringing once again in my memory. Because along with that "ain't broke" chestnut, he was famed in my family for walking into any given room with a kid in it and handing out the sage advice of, "Go outside and play! Get some fresh air." A much less pithy phrase, to be sure, but in light of my recent tech-tied gameplay, it seems to still ring true. Gramps wouldn't have cared if I was swinging a virtual racquet or throwing a perfect onscreen spiral. He still would've booted me into the great outdoors.
Then again, he didn't live in this day and age of casual game gatherings—in which whole families and church groups and dinner parties participate. And that's what Kinect Sports: Season Two is really all about. In spite of it's minor glitches, this is a top-of-the-line rally-the-gang-for-a-little-competitive-arm-waving-fun title that gets the wiggles out when the park lights have clicked off or the weather's too nasty for a real-world "batter up!" And when you look at it from that perspective, it's a peach of game—another expression my grandfather would have been familiar with.