In the past, Xbox Live Arcade has been a veritable treasure trove of cheap and addictive titles that make really good use of Kinect. Generally built from the ground up with Kinect in mind, games such as Fruit Ninja Kinect and Haunt have kept gamers interested in Microsoft's motion device, and that looks set to continue as we head towards the next generation.
Home Run Stars is a simple proposition. A CPU pitcher throws a ball across the plate, and you must take a good, old-fashioned swing in order to make your avatar hammer the sphere at targets dotted around the stadium. Aiming is controlled by moving your lead leg to the left or right, with an arrow at your character's feet showing you where your shot will go. Hitting certain targets will activate multipliers, which are essential in order for you to obtain a gold medal score from your nine allotted swings.
Or they should be essential, at least. Unfortunately, Home Run Stars suffers from being far too easy. If you have any idea with regards to timing your swing, you'll breeze past the gold medal scores without much difficulty. In our play-through, we didn’t have to retry any of the nine levels, apart from to complete the supplemental "Avatar Fame Star" challenges.
This is a bit of a shame, given that the gameplay of Home Run Stars actually works really well. Once you’ve gotten the hang of aiming with your leading foot, you’re always in total control of the action. There are no missed swings and every mistake you make is yours alone. But the fact remains that unless you really get into a heated competition with one of your friends over Xbox Live as to who can get the best score against the third pitcher in the second arena, the single player game is incredibly short-lived. Even if a few levels did take you a couple of attempts, you’d still only be looking at two hours of gameplay.
Fortunately, other game modes are on hand to attempt to round things out. A local duel mode pits you against your friends in a multiple-innings score battle and if you have a compatible device, SmartGlass allows pass-the-controller style competition. One player stands at the plate, and the other commands the pitcher via the SmartGlass device. This is done by selecting one of three pitch types and then quickly tapping three targets as they appear on screen. You're judged on the accuracy and speed of your taps, and this is translated into pitching velocity and quality. It all works nicely enough, with both Kinect and SmartGlass controls responding well but again, it isn’t something you’ll come back to over and over.
The basics of Home Run Stars are all in place. SmartGlass and Kinect controls work well, but there just isn’t enough content here when compared to similarly-priced titles on Xbox Live Arcade for us to recommend a definite purchase.