Kinect: Disneyland Adventures
Skeptics are likely to view this Kinect-controlled trip through a virtual version of one of the world’s busiest tourist traps as the ultimate in video game product placement.
It’s basically a big interactive ad that paints an idyllic picture of Walt Disney’s first theme park. Players suffer no hours-long lines as they walk up to meet costumed characters and jump on famous rides, and digital analogs of pricey real-world souvenirs can be purchased with free money found floating in cobblestone streets.
However, if you can get past the overt commercialism, there’s little denying young Disney fans will have a grand time.
The park is authentically detailed and gorgeous to gawk at. From Frontierland to Main Street U.S.A., the game recreates all the renowned locations Disney acolytes know and love. By the time you finish playing you’ll likely feel as though you really did visit and explore the Happiest Place on Earth.
And there’s no shortage of things to do. With more than 100 quests, players will spend hours tracking down costumed characters to obtain their photos and autographs and playing mini-games based on the park’s most popular attractions. Striving for a 100 per cent completion rating – which involves collecting countless character pins and locating scores of secret Mickey icons – will keep kids occupied for weeks, if not months.
The only thing that really hampers the experience is some wonky attractions. Many of the rides we go on – such as It’s a Small World After All, which has kids cranking a boat through the water and learning simple cultural dances – can be a lot of fun. But others – like Peter Pan’s Flight, which sees players struggling against laggy motion controls as they soar through aerial obstacle courses – are exasperating from the outset.
Overall, though, Kinect: Disneyland Adventures should prove a treat for kids still twitterpated by the magic of Mickey. Just be prepared to deal with the occasional frustrations of younger gamers – and their inevitable requests to visit the real park.
Kinect: Disneyland Adventures
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Disney Interactive
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Dance Central 2 ($59.99; Harmonix Music Systems; 8/10)
Some dance games just want you to shake your booty and be happy. Harmonix’s sophisticated Dance Central games, on the other hand, want to teach you real, full-body choreography – and provide a painfully honest evaluation of your performance. But the franchise’s focus on precision movement isn’t purely sadistic: When you eventually manage to string together a series of buck moves and are rewarded with praise for your hard work, it feels great. This sequel lets two players dance cooperatively or go head to head in competition. Just be ready to sweat for those stars.
The Gunstringer ($49.99; Twisted Pixel; 9/10)
Players control a skeletal cowboy marionette in a western-themed puppet show in this decidedly offbeat and legitimately amusing action game. Pull the strings of your bony protagonist with your left hand and “paint” enemies as targets with your right. Then raise your forearm to make all glowing baddies eat hot lead. The learning curve is low, and the default difficulty level forgiving. There are few more rewarding Kinect experiences for grown-up gamers.
SpongeBob’s Surf and Skate Roadtrip ($49.99; THQ; 5/10)
There’s no shortage of Kinect games that simulate skidding, sliding, and rolling down slopes, and this simple surf and skate game does little to distinguish itself from the competition. The bright graphics are pleasant, and the motion controls for steering and stunts are fine (though far from refined), but a glaring lack of narrative and heavily repetitive action make this SpongeBob adventure a snoozer. Unless your kid is a SquarePants superfan, best wait for it to hit the bargain bins come spring.
PowerUp Heroes ($49.99; Ubisoft; 4/10)
The concept at the heart of this novel fighter, which sees players acting out attacks for their onscreen avatars to copy, is tantalizing. Unfortunately, the motion controls don't feel right. The Kinect camera is slow to pick up on some movements – particularly blocks – and the pace of battles seems much too slow, mostly because it takes a lot longer to carry out a series of physical movements than it would to press a few buttons. Fighters just stand there, waiting for their opponents to attack. Add in a shallow story and simplistic multiplayer, and you have a recipe for a game better left on the shelf.
Kinectimals: Now with Bears! ($19.99; Microsoft Game Studios; 8/10)
This downloadable add-on for Microsoft’s popular pet simulator sees players traveling to a new island populated with baby pandas, polar bears, and grizzlies so cute that you’ll want to reach into your TV and ruffle their fur. Fresh activities include climbing trees, juggling with your cub, and fishing, and the associated movements are just as simple and intuitive as in the original game. It’s a cheap and satisfying way for young Kinect players to get their motion control gaming fix this winter.
Rabbids: Alive & Kicking ($49.99; Ubisoft; 5/10)
Ubisoft’s wacky white rabbit-like creatures come to Kinect with middling results. Moderate fun can be had stomping on them with your feet, squirting carrot juice into their diving masks, and making them stumble blindly into carpets of tacks and live wires, but only when experiencing them in a group of three or more players. Solo play, sadly, is essentially limited to picking and practicing random mini-games, with no overarching plot or objective to provide momentum. It’s viable for big game parties and little else.
Just Dance 3 ($49.99; Ubisoft; 7/10)
Ubisoft’s Just Dance games are far and away the world’s most popular dance simulators, and with good reason. The themed choreography is easy to learn, fun to perform, and often shows a pleasant sense of humour (love the TV-headed dancer in “Video Killed the Radio Star”). Just as important, our computer judges are blissfully blind to most minor mistakes. That even an awkward thirtysomething like me can easily score five stars on “California Gurls” takes away some of the sting of seeing “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” included in a playlist of “oldies.”
Kinect Sports: Season Two ($49.99; Microsoft Game Studios; 6/10)
This follow up to last year’s Kinect launch hit is basically the same game with six new sports: skiing, baseball, golf, darts, football, and tennis. Activities that capture big, sweeping gestures, like swinging a bat in baseball, can be a blast, while those that demand subtler, more delicate movements, like darts, occasionally flummox the motion sensor and give rise to player frustration. Bottom line, it’s basically just another sports-themed mini-game compilation.