It’s questionable if the Kinect is going to play as big a part in the Xbox One’s future as Microsoft once believed. Indeed, by all accounts the original Kinect is dead – Microsoft even chose not to feature the usual ‘Better with Kinect’ branding on the recent Zoo Tycoon.
That didn’t stop us from dusting off our Kinect over the Christmas period though, which just so happened to be a fine way to burn off calories from the copious amount of selection boxes we received.
The fact that several recent(ish) Kinect games were reduced to literally pence over Christmas also played a small part in us getting digging out the Mr. Sheen.
Here’s what we played:
Mini Ninjas Adventures
Big plans were once in mind for Mini Ninjas – a cartoon series, a toy line and more than likely a fully fledged sequel. A lukewarm reception to the 2009 pint-sized platformer seemingly put a stop to that, but it did sell well enough to warrant this Kinect spin-off as well as a neat little side-scroller for mobiles.
Like the protagonist himself, Mini Ninjas Adventures is on the short side. The story mode spans three chapters lasting around an hour each, with the first chapter being little more than a glorified tutorial.
It’s here that our hero Hiro gets to grips with the three weapons that must be used accordingly to take down waves of ninjas. Enemies that get up close and personal have to be taken down with a sword while those on the approach have to be defeated with either arrows or shurikens depending on distance.
Swapping between weapons requires a gesture to be performed, as does performing attacks including sword swipes and firing imaginary arrows from a bow. For most part the Kinect copes well, which is fortunate as at times this can be a game that’s both mentally and physically demanding. See, it’s not long into the second chapter that it reveals itself to be quite a clever little game, forcing you to think fast as you kick the shields out of enemy’s hands, side step to avoid unblockable attacks and use explosive barrels to your advantage. A score multiplier system holds it all together, in addition to the fact that every attack can be avoided or countered if you watch the animations carefully.
We came to this adventure not expecting much, but we left pleasantly surprised and probably a couple of pounds lighter too. All that invisible sword swinging really took its toll.
Although there are some similarities here with Mario Kart, calling it an outright clone would be both unfair and lazy. There are no karts, for starters – the squad of colourful flying squirrels instead glide along gusts of wind, occasionally descending into freefall sections. Hence the title.
Developers Smoking Gun Interactive have worked on a fair few Kinect games in the past, which is something more than evident. The motion controls in particular work faultlessly, allowing you to guide your chosen squirrel through the surprisingly open tracks with both ease and grace. Poking your leg out activates a power-up – which vary from tornadoes that send rival squirrels spinning to the ability to coat the track with spider webs – while leaning forward activates an adrenaline boost.
Adrenaline is gained by flying close to the ground, thus adding a neat little risk/reward system. When playing on the harder difficulty setting building up a steady supply of adrenaline is vital to winning, as is using power-ups wisely. Fail to do so and you’ll find yourself at the back of the pack time and time again.
Although there’s a decent of selection of squirrels to unlock – including a decorated war hero and a tribal warrior – the glaze of their cold dead eyes makes them hard to like. We actually found them quite unnerving, to be honest.
Track design is another flaw, suffering heavily from repetition. No matter if you’re gliding through a tropical forest or an icy mountain range, most tracks comprise of a similar assortment of tight bends, wide caverns and the odd vertical drop or two.
Still, there’s comfort to be found in Freefall Racers’ carefree nature and the presence of a two-player mode manages to make this package feel reassuringly complete.