Kinect's marketing would have you believe the system is a game-changer, bringing new ways of interaction to the home and banishing uninvolving, inaccurate and unplayable minigame compilations to the darkest depths of history. Then along comes Game Party in Motion, lurching to the sensor like a rotting cadaver, leaving only outdated, unplayable minigames and frustrated players in its path.
The problems start immediately. Rather than an on-screen cursor to navigate, you have to perform gestures to advance through the menus: with your arms by your side, lift your right hand up to your waist to go forward, or do the same with your left to go back. A glowing circle around the appropriate icon gets smaller or larger depending on whether you’re closer or further away from activating the button, but it’s a completely inefficient and borderline broken system that, bafflingly, is included in practically every game on the disc.
Split into categories – Outdoor, Action and the completely misleading Precision – you can play a range of minigames that usually involve throwing something at a target, be it darts, quarterback, skill ball, pong toss or something else. With 16 minigames you’d expect there to be a variety in quality, but Game Party in Motion should be commended for maintaining the same terrible standard throughout.
Take darts, for example. You move around the room to direct a cursor over the board, then perform the “forward” gesture to put the dart in your hand; make a throwing motion, being careful not to throw too hard or softly, and repeat until the game’s over. Walking around your living room to control a cursor feels artificial and unnecessary – surely a hand-controlled cursor would have been a better option – and the throwing mechanic is so unpredictable you’re never sure if your dart will fly over the board, sail below it or, as in most cases, just stick to your avatar’s hand like flypaper.
Horseshoe Hysteria and Bocce use a more free-form throwing motion, with no need to line up a cursor first, but these are just as inaccurate, with your throws veering all over the place and no way to tell how far your throw will go.
Many throwing games make use of a ready meter, which you must wait to fill up before you can make your shot - a clumsy addition that just stunts any sort of rhythm or pace the game occasionally threatens to build up. Although you can turn this off in the menu, it really shouldn’t have been included in the first place, only serving to stop you from getting on with the game.
Overall the controls are clumsy and poorly executed. Kinect is supposed to be about natural, fluid motions, but navigating Game Party in Motion’s relentless parade of inaccurate, unreliable stances and movements is like performing an interpretative dance to Ride of the Valkyries. The decision to use particular arm positions to advance through menus is a game in itself, with a frustrating “up a bit, down a bit” element turning your attempts to get on with a game into an amusingly stunted version of The Robot. Kinect has enough dance games without these menus attempting to join them.
Attempting to gauge the distance in many of the games is a complete crap-shoot; in Skillball (a misnomer if ever there was one) the ball never went above the middle of the board, despite our wildest attempts to send it flying over the top, whereas in Ping Cup the ball reliably hurtles past the targets as if powered by rockets. The compilation offers plenty of opportunities to master the skill of throwing objects at different objects, but the controls are so unpredictable you’ll likely give up long before getting anywhere near.
You’d think things would get better with a second player, but you would be wrong. In Root Beer Tapper we found the game mapped our motions to the wrong player, despite signing in correctly and standing in the allotted section. We changed settings, returned to play some Quarterback and exactly the same thing happened, something we haven’t encountered with other Kinect titles so far.
The game’s only real saving grace is its full support for avatars and collection of just 24 Achievements. That’s really the best thing we can say about this title: graphically it’s low budget and features some of the most middle-of-the-road music we’ve yet heard in a Kinect title.
The Game Party series was bad enough on Wii, but on Kinect it sinks to a new low, with inaccurate controls, a broken two-player component and no fun to be had whatsoever. In future this game will sit at the bottom of every bargain bin going, abandoned and forgotten; a foul, decomposing reminder of Kinect’s darkest hour.