‘KINECT SPORTS RIVALS’ (E10+)
Microsoft Game Studios
A showcase for the Xbox One’s newest version of Kinect, “Sports Rivals” is a hodgepodge of different motion-controlled activities. As always, Kinect is an impressive piece of technology when it works, but in every collection of mini-games built for it, there are at least a couple events that’ll make you long for an old-fashioned controller in your hands. The worst offender this time around is Soccer. This bizarre approximation of the sport features stationary players scattered across the field, making the whole thing feel more like foosball, only less precise. For whatever reason, the motion sensor seems to have a hard time tracking the trajectory of your kicks. It performs a lot better when interpreting hand gestures (although it’ll ignore the hand gesture you’re likely to use after unintentionally kicking the ball to the opposing team).
Rock climbing is easily the most fun activity, tasking you to reach up for handholds, close your fist to grab them, and lower your arm to hoist yourself higher. Tennis and Bowling are reliable old motion-controlled sports package standbys, and both play responsively. You can even subtly alter your gestures to put spin on the bowling ball. Jet skiing is equally effortless to control, although it always seems strange to pantomime the operation of mechanical controls. Why not just use the mechanical controller instead? That’s the problem with Kinect: Even when the gesture commands work successfully, you’re often playing a game that would feel more natural if you had an actual object in your hands. Wii Tennis will always be preferable to Kinect Tennis because even though the physical movements are identical, holding a controller makes it feel like you’ve got a racquet in your hand. Overall, “Kinect Sports Rivals” is a decent showcase for what the Kinect can do. It just doesn’t quite prove why the Kinect should do it.
‘LEGO THE HOBBIT’ (E10+)
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Like Batman, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter before him, Bilbo Baggins gets the building block treatment in the latest “LEGO” release. The little hobbit and his plastic band of dwarves alternate between mindlessly smashing their surroundings into their constituent pieces and assembling those pieces into something useful with the press of a single button. It’s a tired formula, about as ancient as Middle-Earth. And since the game only covers the events of the first two “Hobbit” films, the quest ends on an annoyingly anticlimactic note.
‘DISNEY MAGICAL WORLD’ (E)
From Mickey Mouse to Aladdin to Peter Pan, “Disney Magical World” gathers together all of your favorite Disney characters…and lets you run errands for them. You’ll sew clothes for Goofy or gather flowers for Daisy Duck or simply rearrange the furniture in your café. There’s some light RPG-style combat from time to time, but for the most part, you’ll be tending to the garden, fishing and trying out new recipes. Clearly this quaint little world was inspired by “Animal Crossing,” but the experience of living there is about as exciting as standing in line at Disneyland. CV
Matthew Scott Hunter studied video games extensively while attending the University of Nevada Reno and Vancouver Film School (despite the fact that video games were not part of either school’s curriculum). He has been writing Sore Thumbs since 2004.