The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Wipeout In the Zone for Xbox Kinect

Posted by steve on October - 9 - 2011 with 0 Comment

Wipeout: In the Zone

A mostly accurate but disappointing simulation of the TV show.

Wipeout: In the Zone features the same obstacle courses you’ll see in the TV show. However, its motion control accuracy with the Kinect is abysmal, which will result in a lot of trial and error before you get it right. It’s entertaining for a little while to see your character wipe out in a hundred ways, but as with all motion detection games, the fatal flaw is when you do everything perfectly but the system simply fails to capture your movements properly.

Rating by steve: 2.0 stars

Wipeout In the Zone for Kinect is a strange one. The reviews seems to be divided between people who think this is a horrible game, and people who think this is one of the greatest games for the Kinect. Sadly, you can count me among the first group.

Those of you who are fans of the TV show will instantly recognize the activities and the personalities in the game. They’re rendered in typical Xbox “smart-alecky hipster cartoon” drawings.

You start the game by selecting whether you want to compete as a single player, multiplayer, or just practice.

I chose single player. Next, you select a character. You can use your Xbox Avatar, create a new avatar randomly, or choose from avatars they list (oddly, they listed Colin Edwards, Lenexlinus_43, Jebediah Shiner, Angelica Belle, or Tiffany Bannister, which almost appear to be real people’s avatars as opposed to characters from the game). Other characters can be unlocked as you play the game.

Next, you select Easy, Medium, or Hard difficulty. Since everything except Easy is locked, you’re forced to choose Easy to begin the game.

You then select an “episode”. Only 1 and 2 are unlocked, but as you progress through the game you can unlock more.

You start out watching a cartoon John Anderson and John Henson and Jill Wagner introducing the events. The course is just like on the TV show. You start with a course that resembles the one on the TV show, complete with big red balls, punches coming out of the walls, and so on.

Right away, I saw some flaws in the game. First and most aggravatingly, my physical motions and my onscreen character’s motions simply didn’t match very well. For example, whether I ran in place quickly or slowly, my on-screen character ran or walked at his own pace, sometimes even pausing completely (and usually resulting in him getting thrown into the water). Worse, in some activities where a free range of motion would have been nice, my motions were limited, which also resulted in me getting penalized (one example is the “sucker punch”, where no matter how I contorted my body, I would get punched almost every time beyond my control).

I found as I played through the game that my natural movements didn’t work as expected on-screen. So the game became less about playing the game and more about “how can I artificially manipulate my body so that the game somehow interprets my movements correctly”. And that got really, really annoying.

Another very annoying things is that EVERY time you got knocked into the water, you’d be greeted by really, really annoyingly frenetic music, endless replays, and in some cases sarcastic comments by the announcers. Thankfully, there are options where you can turn off the replays.

They flash “tips” in between screens on how to control your movements, but those tips stay on the screen for about half a second giving you no chance to read them, much less process them. In any case, good Kinect games shouldn’t have to tell you how to control your body–you should be able to move naturally and the game should detect them.

Here’s a video of me attempting to get through the most basic course. Note the problem I have with the red balls–one time I’ll get through the course flawlessly but in this case, no matter how I timed my jumps, the Kinect just didn’t register them correctly. Notice also how annoying it gets when the on-screen announcers repeat the same sarcastic comments over and over again.

Another familiar contraption from the TV show is The Eliminator. This is where you compete against four contestants to jump over a rotating pole. Again, the system detected smaller jumps, but bigger jumps simply weren’t detected, and into the pool I went each time no matter how high I jumped.

When I got to “The Wipeout Zone”, this was another “obstacle course” where the main obstacle just was trying to get the game to mimic my movements correctly. For example, as I tried to get through “the screwdriver”, again, the on-screen character walked at his own pace, no matter how frantically I was running and flailing my arms. With the Kinect not representing my movements very well, this became an exercise in frustration. And again, no matter how I jumped, the on-screen character just jumped at the pace and the distance beyond my control…it was only by dumb luck that my character managed to bounce his way to the finish line.

Perhaps in an acknowledgement of how frustrating their game is, you can throw your arms up to “skip ahead” and complete the course that way. But I would have rather them have gotten the controls accurate rather than allowing people to take a shortcut like this.

Long story short, I think if you’re a fan of the series, seeing the familiar elements and personalities may be enough to motivate you to put up with the game’s flaws, and you may even have a lot of fun with it and get a decent workout with all the running and jumping. And I’ll concede that perhaps my setup didn’t do me any favors (I live in a small apartment, so I’m only about 6 feet in front of my Kinect). But then again, games like Dance Central and Kinect Sports manage to pick up my movements just fine.

For me, I really didn’t have the patience to go any further than the first two episodes. It’s unfortunate, because like I said, this one had the potential to be a really fun game that gives you a great workout. But when you’re panting and sweating because you’re trying and trying to get the game to work correctly, rather than just playing the game, that’s not worth it. This one was a disappointment.

2 of 5 stars.