An unremarkable collection of mini-games destined for the bargain bin
“Shovelware” comes to the Xbox. This is a collection of 12 mini-games which do a fairly good job of showing off the capabilities of the Kinect, but which are otherwise unremarkable.
Motion Explosion is that it’s a compilation of 12 mini-games that have you balancing things, juggling things, grabbing things, and dodging things. In other words, it’s a game whose main purpose seems to be so you can tell people, “Hey, I have a Kinect. Isn’t it cool?”
To get started, you can choose a guest avatar or use yours. You can play with up to 4 players; to say it’s a “four player game” is a bit misleading because you’re not competing against each other at once, you’re taking turns.
There are 12 mini games and each game has 10 levels of play. Here are the games:
Balance Beam. In this game, you hold a board over your head while different-shaped blocks fall on it. You have to balance them as they fall on your board and dump them into buckets to collect points. The level of control and responsiveness is very good–you can move the board up or down or tilt it at any angle as you’re collecting blocks. Overall, I’d say this game was the most fun out of the group (5 of 5)
Crank it Up – In this game you’re cranking a shaft with your left hand. As balls fly down, you’ll punch at the target with your right hand. Sounds like a promising idea, but it gets extremely frustrating when you punch and punch but can’t connect because the game expects you to work within a 3D space on the screen, but it’s hard to gauge 3D depth and distance on a 2D screen. This will be a recurring theme throughout these reviews (2 of 5)
Dodge Ball – Here, “robo cannons” move around the court and shoot balls at you. You can dodge them or you can punch them with the boxing gloves you have on. I really wanted to like this one (who doesn’t love a good game of dodgeball), but the game suffered from the sluggishness that plagues many Kinect games, where you might move quickly but your on-screen character feels like it’s stuck in molasses. (3 of 5).
Heavily Armed – This is a derivative of the “Balance Beam” game where you have a board strapped to your left arm and need to stack blocks in specific patterns as they fall. It’s an interesting use of the Kinect, and may be fun in a group setting, but quickly gets tiring when you’re playing alone (3 of 5).
Juggle Struggle – Like Dodge Ball, this concept is a real winner but simply suffers in the execution (ironically, the same concept is executed much better in Wii Fit). You use your hands to toss objects in the air and try to keep them in the air, stepping on stars on the ground and avoiding bombs from time to time that are thrown at you. This game suffers mightily from the aforementioned problem of trying to gauge 3D depth on a 2D screen. At times you’ll be hitting the ball with precise timing but still completely miss it. This one could have been the star of the title, instead I found it quite mediocre (3 of 5).
Off the Grid – Here, you stand on the intersection of two conveyor belts, where blocks are moving toward you from two angles. You need to contort your body to avoid blocks. This one required at least 8 feet of space which I didn’t have, so it was unplayable for me. (2 of 5)
Robo Control – This is an interesting game where you control a remote controlled robot to try to collect points. You pump with your left hand and steer left and right with the other. In all honesty, it felt kind of pointless. The “pumping and steering” actions didn’t simulate anything at all like real life . Plus, this was a game that would have been infinitely more fun if two players could play simultaneously going after the same targets, but each player has to wait their turn. (2 of 5)
Sack Hack – This was a pretty fun game that was along the lines of juggling–you basically play a virtual game of “hacky sack” with multiple different-colored balls. The system will highlight which limb to use to hit the ball. I found this fun, but again a victim of the same problem as juggling, where you’d hit the balls with perfect timing, but the system would let the ball drop because you weren’t in the right position, either lengthwise or depthwise (3 of 5)
Shape Dodge – In this game, a number of shapes are coming at you on a conveyor belt, and you have to move out of the way. If this sounds like Off the Grid, that’s because it is, the shapes are just coming at you from a different angle. (2 of 5)
Star Hop – This game is all about footwork. You collect stars coming at you on a conveyor belt by touching them with your feet, and avoid bombs by stepping or hopping over them. I found this pretty fun, but if you’re someone whose Kinect is too close that it can’t detect your feet, you will not enjoy this one, as it’ll be impossible to jump out of the way (4 of 5)
Star Stream – This is a game where you reach up and grab stars as they come toward you. Again, this should have been a lot more fun than it turned out to be. As with other games, reaction was sluggish at best (2 of 5)
Tilt Board – This game is reminiscent of those old wooden maze games. You tilt a board to make a ball roll on it, and gather as many stars as you can while avoiding red holes and exiting the maze at a green hole. The controls are hardly intuitive–you move your left hand up and down to tilt the maze backward and forward, and move your right hand from side to side to tilt the board left and right. Probably would have been more fun if it just let you hold your hands in front of you and tilt your whole body. But as it was, it was disappointing (2 of 5)
You can either play a “Motion Mix” of three random games or play any of the game using “Free Play” mode. One cool feature of the game is that it’ll give you in-depth statistics of how well you play each game and the progress you make.
You probably saw some recurring themes in my descriptions of the games. If you don’t have at least 8-10 feet of space in front of your Kinect, it won’t work for you. Many game suffer from sluggishness. And even though there were 12 games, many of them felt monotonously similar to each other.
There were a few other really annoying things about the game. The announcer throughout the game is a perky woman who’s had about five cups of coffee too much, and there’s no way to turn her off. Worse, when you fail to perform certain things, she’ll get really snide and sarcastic. Now I don’t mind this in games when the foul-up is my fault. But when it’s the system fouling up and I get lambasted for it, that gets really, really annoying, enough where I want to punch the TV. Another little annoyance–after every game your avatar would celebrate wildly with a dance, even if he or she just scored no points. I wanted to slap my avatar and tell him to cut it out.
I should mention that this is a party game, and if you play all the games above in a party setting, I’m guessing it’ll be a lot more fun simply because you’re competing against each other, and all are on a level playing field. But again, the inability for players to compete simultaneously is unfortunate.
I suppose if you practice enough times, eventually you’ll learn how to adjust for idiosyncrasies like the depth perception and the sluggishness issues. But personally, I don’t have the patience for that, not when there are plenty of other Kinect games (such as Kinect Sports and Dance Central) that you can just pop in and play out of the box.
Overall, I’d say that this would have been a great title a year ago, when the Kinect was first launched. In many ways, it feels like a demonstration title showing the capabilities of the Kinect. But I didn’t really find it compelling as a stand-alone title. In fact, the impression I got from Motion Explosion is that it was very similar to those “shovelware” games we saw on the Wii, where a publisher would pack in a bunch of mediocre games on one title in hopes that people would snatch them up thinking they were getting a good deal. I’d say maybe it’s worth $19.99 when it gets to the bargain bin. But for $39.99 there are plenty of other options.