June 16, 2012

When Dirk the Daring Met Kinect

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , — Jason Westhaver @ 2:34 pm

Dragons Lair Xbox LIVE Arcade Kinect
Since first releasing in 1983, Dragon’s Lair has seen a ridiculous number of ports and adaptations, for everything from the MSX2 to the PlayStation Network. But few, if any, of those releases have attempted to update the experience beyond visual restoration. In the last five years alone, we’ve seen no less than thirteen ports featuring the same mechanics, the same HD video transfer and the same QTE-styled hints.

While these present improvements over the original arcade LaserDisc, they do little to make the game appeal to modern players, and even less to excite fans for new releases. For a while it seemed like Digital Leisure had done all they could to squeeze money out of the property, but then they did something surprising – they added Kinect support.


April 4, 2012

Review – Diabolical Pitch

Review Diabolical Pitch
Grasshopper Manufacture’s first kick at the Kinect gives players a solid footing to stand on, bringing the action to them rather than asking that they flail their limbs wildly to move through environments – possibly while shouting “look ma, no hands!”

This doesn’t lessen the physical workout by any means, as four consecutive days of throwing imaginary baseballs at my television has left my body broken. I persisted in working through the pain of strained muscles however, partly because I wanted an achievement for throwing a faster pitch, but also because Diabolical Pitch is the most replayable experience available on the Kinect – or at least the most replayable experience that doesn’t ask you to dance in time to Lady Gaga.

Players step into the cleats of star pitcher McAllister, who loses the use of his pitching arm after his greatest game, and then mysteriously arrives at Queen Christine’s Dreamland, where he is given a prosthetic pitching arm and offered the chance to make all his dreams come true by a somewhat melancholic cow.

If that sounds a bit odd, expect things to get far more bizarre. And welcome back to a delightful place we know simply as the Grasshopper Zone.


January 26, 2012

Review – Haunt

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 8:57 am

Review Haunt
Creating a haunted house game for the Kinect is a noble pursuit. A shaky hand naturally lends itself to acting as a flickering flashlight, and players are forced to open doors that could reveal unspeakable horrors with their own two hands, rather than the press of a button, enhancing the experience of being an active participant versus a passive observer – key to the evolution of the horror genre via the videogame medium.

Last year saw Sega attempt to strike first blood on the peripheral with Rise of Nightmares, a gritty game of bloody nurses and sharp weapons that asked players to use their body to punch and kick the cream-filling out of the undead. The violent workout met with mixed results in the attempt to stretch the narrative and physical experience into a retail release.

Enter NanaOn-Sha, otherwise known as the people who brought you the music rhythm genre with titles like Parappa the Rapper and Um Jammer Lammy, now teaming up with Zoë Mode to bring their own full-body spin on the concept on a smaller scale with the Xbox LIVE Arcade release of Haunt.

Although comparing the two games mechanically is helpful, separating them thematically is essential – where Sega sought a B movie slaughter-fest, Haunt is a more lighthearted horror affair. While the game offers jump-scares that get the blood pumping, the spirit of fascination and charm found within the experience is more apt to leave you smiling by the end instead of covering your eyes.

That said however, the game will ask you to cover your eyes at times, though only when set upon by goggle-wearing ghouls.


December 29, 2011

Sweet’N Low – Saving Eden

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 12:18 am

Child of Eden
With all the year-end articles that take time out to lament how the Kinect still lacks a single title that breaks the dancing and aerobics fixation, it has crossed my mind that I may have been playing Child of Eden wrong. And yet revisiting the title has confirmed that waltzing while shooting does little to raise my scores. It’s puzzling to say the least.

Returning to Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Kinect-enabled title did offer me the chance to once again glide along a rail through a cosmic ocean though, cleansing red points of infection from particle whales moving along the same tide before eventually vanishing on the horizon that gives birth to a fiery phoenix. My right hand grabbed multiple targets before a flip of the wrist fired locked-on shots. The left hand fired a repeating laser stream into the wings of the bird, producing a sound that left me feeling as if I were running my hands across a harp.

Perhaps this is the point where touch, vision, and sound come together in a harmony that exposes an experience of subtle discovery – you could miss it entirely in the action of firing lasers and target tracking. The sensory experience provides a clean palette for sights and sounds to emerge, so many tiny pieces weaving together in response to the actions of your hands.

Child of Eden also makes an existing genre more accessible, and that open-invitation encourages the desire to perfect the play of the performance the Kinect allows me to conduct.

Playing the game with a standard controller offers a striking difference – not necessarily lesser, but more linear, and something I want to often compare to traveling along the trench of the Death Star. The Kinect alternative never feels like anything less than the absolute emphasis, offering players a chance to feel quite a bit like Johnny Mnemonic – minus the burden of having to be Keanu Reeves, of course.

Eden is a space and place where abstract concepts take physical shape, and symbolic logic builds a complex world awaiting agile hands. Perhaps the accomplishment was doomed to always be undermined by the want for an expensive peripheral to fully appreciate the offering, but the experience left a significant mark on me this year all the same.

September 13, 2011

Review – The Gunstringer

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 1:21 pm

Review The Gunstringer
His name had once sent chills through the Internet – the one who sharpened words for weapons and sought to bring meaning to an insensible and lawless land. Along the way, he’d tackled every genre, never backing away from the challenge to ply his trade across every console.

They called him, The Reviewer…

But the years had taken a heavy toll, and he’d eventually succumbed to the sins and excesses of his profession. The Reviewer had sunk into a world where the pixels were as cheap and lifeless as the jaded opinions of the cynics surrounding him at the local haunts, where the only topic of discussion was the good ol’ days of gaming thought long gone.

And though The Reviewer seemed destined to fade away with the last traces of optimism that had led him down this road, it seemed that fate had other plans. Stumbling home one night, he discovered a mysterious package at his door, and tearing it open revealed a copy of The Gunstringer.

Setting skepticism aside, The Reviewer placed the disc into his aging Xbox, which sparked to life with a dull whirring kick like an angry mule. And within five minutes of waving his hands before the glow of the television, The Reviewer felt the old spark within his chest, and knew that it was finally time to write again…


August 19, 2011

X’11 – Hands On With Rise of Nightmares

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 5:09 pm

Rise of Nightmares
Among the wares Sega was showing at X’11 yesterday was Rise of Nightmares, the Kinect exclusive survival horror title that’s due out in a couple of weeks. That demo happened to be my first opportunity to play a Kinect game, and while the title may not have been on my radar beforehand, that I walked away feeling good about the experience speaks volumes.

The demo began with a brief rundown of the basic control movements. I found myself in a rather unpleasant prison-like setting, where I was able to walk forward by placing one foot ahead of me and back by doing the reverse. Interestingly, the further forward my foot was placed, the faster my character would move, while turning my shoulders to either side would steer me through the world.

Placing an open hand in front of me brought up a cursor used to interact with and pick up nearby items, while pushing with that hand would open doors—a task that could also be accomplished, to my infinite amusement, by kicking wildly.


September 16, 2010

Kinect @ TGS

Filed under: News Feed — Tags: , , , — Jamie Love @ 12:19 am

Kinect at TGS
Microsoft’s latest Kinect PR buzz has flexed quite a bit of Japanese support muscle from TGS, doing a surprisingly good job of rounding up some major names – at the moment I’ve got more talk than show. Word of Steel Battalion had me briefly dreaming of a new and ridicolously eccentric controller, but Capcom’s Heavy Armor is a Kinect exclusive, along with a first-person horror title from Sega titled Rise of Nightmares.

In the severe cred department, Kinect is getting its own Grasshopper game, Codename D – tagged as an “eerie amusement-park thriller.” Add to this Project Draco from Grounding – a 3D shooter hoping to stir memories of Panzer Dragoon – and a mystery title from NanaOn-Sha titled Haunt, and it’s clear Microsoft has been busy courting Japan to get more than the casual crowd interested in Kinect.

I’m left hanging at the moment over how any of these are going to look or feel, but it’s enough to keep me tuned in, which seems like an accomplishment based on where I’ve been with Kinect to date.

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