Depending on when you pick it up, the decision on whether or not to get Kinect Party is a bit of a no-brainer. For a while after release day, it was available for absolutely no charge and should you have missed out, the price is 800 MSP.
The product itself is also a bit of a no-brainer at times too, and while Double Fine have carried on their admirable work from Double Fine Happy Action Theatre, Kinect Party is far too similar to really draw in any new customers. Essentially, you’re looking at a new batch of interactive tech demos that are designed to show off what Kinect can do in tandem with your imagination and inquisitiveness. On one “channel”, your lounge is transformed into a giant bathtub – complete with rubber duckies – and you can splash around in the water and attempt to push the rubber duck around. Another channel has you moving your hands to drop blocks into place in order to build medieval-style towers around your living room. After a while, the game switches into 3D mode, and the camera spins around to show you what you’ve created, before giving you the chance to turn up as Godzilla and knock them all down. Then there’s the giant LED stick figure that you can control by moving your limbs around. That’s all he does really – move as you do, and occasionally shoot a star out of his hand if you move quick enough. Again, good fun, but incredibly short-lived.
And this is where people who have already played the game start to make comments about our opinion, and rightly so.
If you’re under the age of 12, say, you’ll probably absolutely adore Kinect Party, and wonder why we didn’t give it a score of ten.
If you’re over the age of 12, you’ll realise that the innocent and carefree fun that Kinect Party provides is just too limited, and wonder why we didn’t give it a score of one.
You see, for those of us that are old enough to remember Y2K threatening to take over the world and eat all our money, every single attraction in Kinect Party is absolutely adorable for about twenty seconds. Then you realise that you’ve hit the one bell or blown the one whistle that’s on offer in the level, and therefore seen everything that attraction contains. Then you tap your foot for the next minute or so until the next one comes on. Either that, or you use the admittedly very responsive new voice commands that the game provides to say “Hey Television! What’s up next?” in order to skip along. At least until your neighbours have you sectioned, at least.
This is a bit of a shame – even for the kids – because in a game that has no scoring, no challenge, and no judgement of any sort, surely a bit of exploration or a reward for getting a little inquisitive isn’t too much to ask for? The fact is that the attractions themselves don’t offer enough to the player (or players, as up to 6 can play) in order to truly provide any real replay value – again, unless you’re under the age of 12. In an event called “The Costume Party”, you catch costume parts – which the on-screen version of you wears. Then a lectern and crowd appears, and you naturally start acting as if you’re giving a speech. Catch a wad of money, and you can distribute it to the crowd. Again, that’s it. The entire thing.
In the bath game we mentioned earlier, you can swat what looks like a toilet chain in order to pour more water into the tub. Other than a water animation playing for a second or two, that’s about all you can do, and you don’t get anything for it other than the opportunity to do it again. If we were all made ecstatically happy by that, we would have come up with a device that allows us to hit a button and get moving pictures to play many, many years ago.
But the point still stands. The channel that comes closest to being rewarding has you wearing Tesla coils and getting the electricity to flow into little helicopters so that they fly, and into screens so that they light up. This works nicely (and to be fair, all the games do) but again, that’s the limit of it. You make the helicopter take off, and then another appears. Then another. Then a lightbulb. Then another helicopter. This continues until the game decides that you’ve had enough, and moves you onto the next attraction. Some sideshows don’t really even do much of anything, with the one that transforms your lounge into a rainforest being somewhat pointless. The rain pours, you kick a mushroom over, and you splash in a puddle. That’s your lot.
If you already own Double Fine Happy Action Theatre, the games from that product will automatically be pulled in for play in Kinect Party, so you essentially get one giant experimental playground to fool around in. You might even fire up your new game and find that you kick things off by playing one of the original attractions, which is a little strange.
We might sound like old sourpusses here, and that’s probably a fair call. The fact is that as an experiment, Double Fine Happy Action Theatre was a limited collection of events that suggested that Double Fine were thinking of fleshing out some of the ideas and turning them into real games. Unfortunately for us grown up folks, that isn’t the case. Fortunately for the kids, that isn’t the case.
For free, Kinect Party was an absolute steal for all. For the 800 MSP that you can get it for now, that can only be said for the younger player. Kids will love it.