Kinect Sports: Season Two review

Here comes another compilation of sports related minigames for another motion control peripheral on another of our beloved game consoles. By now it might be hard to tell the difference between games like Wii Sports, Sports Champions, and Kinect Sports since, as of this point, each respective system has covered all of their bases in terms of minigames in the major sporting events. We’ve all played tennis, baseball, golf, and even skied down some slopes on the Wii and PS3, but now it’s Kinect’s turn. Does Kinect Sports: Season Two’s controller-free gestures make for a better experience than the competitors, or is it just the same old walk down a far too familiar, sports equipment laden road?

Season Two includes tennis, baseball, golf, darts, skiing, and American football… there are really no surprises with this game. Each sport starts with only the easiest opponents available. The medium and most difficult opponents are unlocked by defeating the previous ones, giving some incentive to play each sport more than once on single-player. Challenge modes add variety from the standard modes, but the overall gameplay of the minigames and their gesture controls remind us how we’ve played these games before – but back then they worked better.

In some of the minigames like baseball, golf, and skiing the controls are overly simplistic, wonky, and rather drab. For instance, where competitors’ minigames like Wii Sports’ bowling allowed the player to accurately throw the bowling ball down the lane with a specific hook, power, and angle, Season Two’s baseball pitching has no such intricacies. Pitching fastballs and curveballs is easy enough and can be thrown either fast or slow, but there is no more variety in the pitching than that. Golf feels clunky when trying to rotate the avatar toward the green and while attempting a swing with a measured amount of power. Skiing presents no real challenge and tennis is just more of what has already been done in other games.

That isn’t to say that there’s no fun to be had with Season Two. Batting a homer, serving an ace in tennis, and pulling a Happy Gilmore on the golf course is as rewarding as it ever was. The new darts minigame is fun and works surprisingly well. Players control a reticle while gesturing like they are aiming a dart. Moving the hand back and then forward will lock on to the point of aiming and release the dart toward the board. If the player keeps everything straight in the follow-through, bulls-eyes are no problem. Darts feels the most natural of the minigames, controls well, and is genuinely challenging.

The football minigame provides the much needed variety and a little more depth in Season Two’s minigame roster. Players are always on offense and play as the quarterback. On downs there is the option to choose between offensive plays with two short, two medium range, and two Hail Mary type plays. To call the snap, players can either purely use gestures or start the play with voice commands, which is a nice little touch. Choosing between the receivers and throwing a long bomb is fun and intuitive. If a touchdown isn’t scored in three downs, players can try for a field goal or go for the touchdown. With the field goal, a swift boot through the uprights is as intuitive as doing it in real life. The only real downside is that only the offense is playable, so you will feel defenseless as you watch the possession summary of the opposing team. Football is nowhere as in depth as Madden (obviously), but it is fun as a quick way to throw some touchdown passes.

Season Two is a bit of a “been there done that” sort of compilation with the all too familiar tennis, golf, and baseball minigames. The Kinect functionality never adds anything to make Season Two stand out from the competition. The new voice command functionality works well and is integrated into most of the games but is more of just an optional addition. Season Two still works great as a party game and the online multiplayer gives another avenue to play with friends.

Kinect Sports: Season Two might be worthwhile if it is one of your first sports game compilations, but for those who own or have played any other motion controlled sports game, it would probably be a good idea to let this one pass.

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