It's been four years since we first unpacked our Wii consoles and tried the game that came with it - Wii Sports. The game went on to be the best selling game of all times (the fact that it was bundled in Europe and North America sure helped), and the competition felt they had to do something about it. But when I open my box it's Kinect Adventures and not Kinect Sports that falls out. This is the game that is meant to introduce me to this new piece of technology.
Kinect Adventures is made up of five mini-games, all of which can be played by two people simultaneously. You can either jump straight into the games in Free Play or take on the Adventure mode where you travel across a map and play the events in a specific order. The games themselves are a rather loosely held together collection of events, both when it comes to content and entertainment value. In one moment I find myself in a rubber raft, the next I'm in a zero gravity chamber. Oh well, at least there is variation...
Let's start of with the rafting and River Rush, the best part of Kinect Adventures in my opinion. You stand on a raft alone or with a friend and go down the raging waters collecting tokens with A's on them. You turn by leaning towards that direction and if you jump so will the raft. A jump just before a ramp or mid-air can give your ride a big boost.
The pace is high and the environments are nice, and it's particularly entertainment when there are two players. Since the river offers several paths you have to communicate and co-operate with your friend, and this will lead to moments where the two of you want to go in opposite directions and the result will be that the raft heads straight into a rock wall. At moments such as these you almost forget about the slow response to jumps and turns, and the lag that seems to plague all Kinect titles.
Rallyball is an Arkanoid-esque mini-game where you flail your arms and legs to bounce balls onto moving blocks at the end of a corridor. Once again: the concept is brilliant but soon descends into gimmick territory as the response is lacking. As soon as the levels become harder the challenge lies in putting your arm or leg in the right place well before the ball arrives, to compensate the lagging controls.
In 20,000 Leaks you don't need quick reactions. You find yourself in a transparent box on the bottom of the sea surrounded by pissed off fishes who crash into your glass bowl and create leaks. As the water pours in you have to place hands and feet to plug the leaks. The more leaks that appear, the weirder positions you will find yourself in. Sort of like twister, which is good for a few laughs. But after a round I'm not really tempted to have another go.
Reflex Ridge is more entertaining. You ride around in a cart on some kind of obstacle course and your objective is to duck under or move out of the way of obstacles along the course. On top of this you have to try and collect as many tokens as possible with your body, sort of like dancing to YMCA. Once again, it's more fun with two players, but this time it's not co-operative, instead you and your friend are competing for the highest score.
That takes us to Space Pop, a game where you have to break bubbles in a zero gravity chamber. Makes perfect sense. The bubbles appear in different spots in the chamber and you have to move along all axles and flail your arms to ascend. Space Pop is probably the least intuitive part of Kinect Adventures and I grow weary after just half a round.
With a few notable exceptions Kinect Adventures is a pretty weak release title, and the limitations and lag of Kinect and the lack of competitive multiplayer are what holds it back. Yes, this is a new way of playing video games, and something that's fun to show friends, grandma, or the plumber while he's taking a break from his job. But once the novelty wears off these are adventures that quickly fades from your memory.