The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Kinect Sports Basketball Challenge Add-On

Basketball for Kinect Sports 2

A worthwhile add-on for users of Kinect Sports 2 which adds variety to the game but unfortunately carries over a lot of the sins of its parent.,

Rating by steve: 4.0 stars

kinect sport basketballI’m admittedly not a fan in general of downloadable content (DLC). In theory, it’s great for a publisher to be able to improve a game piece by piece as it gets older. But in reality, a lot of game publishers are so sneaky that they’ll intentionally cripple a $60 game and make the player pay, $5 and $10 at a time, for what should have been part of the game to begin with. I usually don’t reward those publishers by buying DLC from them.

On the other hand, Kinect Sports 2 is doing it right. When the game was originally released, I didn’t think it was the best game in the world, but I certainly felt it was worth the price I paid for it. Since then, Microsoft has released, completely free, Challenge Pack 1 and Challenge Pack 2. The new mini-games for both Challenge Packs carried over a lot of the weaknesses of the original game (lack of precision of controls, somewhat sluggish responsiveness, overly lengthy cut scenes and loading time), but I couldn’t really complain because they were free, and they were relatively fun.

Recently, Microsoft has made available a new add-on which adds an entirely new sport to the franchise–Basketball. The upgrade is only 800 points, and you’ll see an entirely new menu option with three new mini-games.

There are multiple ways to download the add-on. The easiest is just to select it from the Kinect Sports 2 menu (it’ll have a lock on it). But my preferred way is to go to the Xbox Web site, and redeem Xbox points for it. On a side note, I would recommend buying Xbox Points from a retailer like Xbox Points rather than directly from Microsoft, as you’ll often get a nice discount.

The next time you sign into your Xbox, the item you purchased will be waiting for you to download and play.

The first activity is a standard three-point shooting challenge. As with many other sports in Kinect Sports 2, it’s an adequate if not entirely accurate simulation of the real thing. As with a lot of sports in the original Kinect Sports 2 game, when you try to use “real motions” to play the game, the game’s respects really feels hurky-jerky at times. I never really felt 100% in control–at times the ball would release without me even wanting it to. Every single three point shot has to be a jump shot, and even things like making a ball release motion with your wrist isn’t taken into account–in fact, ironically if you keep your arm completely straight up as you’re jumping and don’t make any motions with your wrist you’ll probably score higher.

Having said that, once you adjust to the idiosyncrasies of the game, it is a lot of fun, especially the feeling to hitting 3/4 court shots (unrealistic to be sure, but to be fair, it’s as realistic as being the king of the dance floor or shooting monsters with an uzzi?).

The next mini game is an odd one where you need to hit targets with your basketball shots and avoid shattering jukebox records (records?? what are they??). It’s mainly a game of timing but again, it takes a good while to get used to how to properly make a basketball shot in a way that the system recognizes.

The third basketball game is a passing game. It’s a good concept–you bounce pass or alley-oop to your team mates to assist on shots and dunks, and at the same time avoid accidentally passing it to opposing players. The gripe I have about this game is the same as the football game. Even though the Kinect technically allows for free range of motion, the gameplay here is “dumbed down” to only allow for four kinds of passes: bounce pass or alley oop pass to the left or right. And even then, it doesn’t even get it right a lot of the time–there were times I’d pass to the right but the system is so sluggish it thinks I’m passing to the left. I eventually get frustrated trying to control my passes, and just end up flailing my arms wildly, in hopes that some passes will turn out right. I can get a high enough score that way, but as with other Kinect Sports 2 activities, it seems like an awful waste to have the world’s most advanced motion control system, but still be outschooled in terms of gameplay and responsiveness by games like Wii Sports Resort.

The verdict? I’ll give the Basketball Add-on Pack the same 4 stars I gave the original Kinect Sports 2. It’s a fun enough game, a nice way to add variety to the game, a decent enough workout if you play it long enough, and a decent enough showcase of the Kinect, but it could have been so much more. Still, at about $10 (the cost of the Microsoft Points you’ll need to redeem for this), it’s not a bad deal.

If and when there’s a Kinect Sports 3, I hope the developers can really “reboot” the series, take away the sluggishness, the imprecision of controls, the excessive load times, and the impish “aren’t we so clever” graphics and characters, and just focus on making a game where you can immerse yourself in the simulation of the sport.