Game Rant's Jeff Schille reviews Kinect Sports: Season Two
Microsoft's mega-popular Kinect enters its second holiday season armed with an ever larger arsenal of titles pitched at every corner of the gaming market. While Child of Eden and The Gunstringer, not to mention Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary's Kinect controls, target Xbox 360's older crowd, Kinect continues to play host to a number of family-friendly games.
Leading the charge for 2011 is Kinect Sports: Season Two, but does this sequel build on the success of the original, or is it simply more of the same? Keep reading for Game Rant's final verdict on Kinect Sports: Season Two.
Kinect Sports: Season Two arrives bearing six all new sports for virtual athletes to master: Golf, Tennis, Baseball, Football, Skiing, and Darts. They are not all equally good, but the best of them define a new, unmatched standard in gestural control that fully delivers on the promise of Kinect. Add to that excellent, responsive voice control for everything from menu options ("Change main player") to actual gameplay ("Ready, hike!"), and it begins to become clear what a significant jump this represents from the first Kinect Sports.
From the moment the game begins, Kinect Sports: Season Two exhibits a level of care and polish -- in its clean, attractive graphics, in its innocuous but appropriate licensed soundtrack, and in its supreme approachability -- that many players may associate more with Nintendo than Microsoft. Simply put, Rare and Big Park have delivered a world class casual sports game that easily competes with the best in the genre.
Key to the game's success is the one two punch of Kinect controls that (by and large) just plain work, and game mechanics that are simple enough for the youngest players, but still manage to offer sufficient control depth to make success rewarding.
Golf, Kinect Sports: Season Two's best event, epitomizes everything that is good about the experience. Gestural controls for swinging work exactly as one would imagine, but the designers went above and beyond in crafting more for players to do. Want to see the lay of the course? Hold a hand to your brow as though shielding your eyes from the sun. Need a closer look at a put? Simply crouch down on the green. The motions feel natural to perform and add a palpable, undeniable immersion to the experience.
Tennis is nearly as fun, and accurately tracks a wide range of player motion. Be warned that the slight input delay inherent to Kinect is more apparent in Tennis than in any of Kinect Sports: Season Two's other events. As such, it is necessary to "lead" swings a bit, but -- and this is true across all of the sports -- the game's pace takes that lag into account, and players will find that they adjust almost instantly.
Admittedly, many of the events in Kinect Sports: Season Two have appeared before in competing products on other platforms. The pitching and hitting mechanics in Baseball, for instance, are not worlds removed from those in Wii Sports. But Kinect Sports: Season Two Baseball doesn't just recreate the Wii Sports experience, it improves on it by adding fun catching and running mechanics -- and, of course, much nicer visuals.
In addition to new events, Kinect Sports: Season Two includes a new way to play. Challenge Play offers asynchronous multiplayer on either a single Xbox 360 or across Xbox Live, and is great for driving competition. Just pick an event, put up a score, and send the challenge.
Quick Play returns from the first Kinect Sports, and may be the only mode some families ever play. Any number of players can form teams and compete in quick, random events that range from wacky (target Kinect Sports mascots on the tennis court) to traditional (a quick race down the slopes). All the game's sports are represented, and the events are universally easy to grasp and start playing. Practically worth the price of admission on its own, Quick Play in Kinect Sports: Season Two is the single best party game Kinect has to offer.
Players who wish to focus on an individual sport are free to do so either alone or in multiplayer (local or online), and the game will even keep track of the calories burned while playing. Events tackled in any mode other than Quick Play award fans that can be used to unlock achievements, Avatar Items, and more.
Very few issues get in the way of enjoying Kinect Sports: Season Two. Switching clubs in Golf can be troublesome, and the game occasionally has trouble recognizing voice commands issued by young players. Darts, while an accurate representation of the sport, is so sedate that it seems slightly out of place with Kinect Sports: Season Two's more active offerings (though players worn out by the other events may welcome the break). Throwing a long pass downfield and running it in for a touchdown is exhilarating, but the lack of any kind of defensive mode in Football is both baffling and a missed opportunity. Finally, though Kinect Sports: Season Two doesn't come up short on content, a few more sports would have been welcome.
In a season stocked to the gills with brooding superhero adventures (Batman: Arkham City) and M-rated shooters (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3), it can be tough enough to find games the whole family can play -- let alone games that actually deliver on the promise of being fun for everyone. Kinect Sports: Season Two serves up aces on both counts, handily besting its predecessor and packing the best party play available on Kinect. Highly recommended.
Kinect Sports: Season Two is available now, exclusively for Xbox 360 with Kinect.
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