This new DLC challenge pack for Kinect Sports 2 includes three new game modes for a new sport to the series: Basketball. Commonly known as “Hoosier Hysteria” in some parts of backwards America. Or as we like to call it round here at the NZG offices: “Happy Hoops Hour”.
Here’s what you can expect:
3-Point Hero is the activity most players should start with, as it offers up the basics of the core gameplay through the set. It’s just you and your balls... in front of a basketball net where players must mimic shooting a hoop just like your favourite NBA (or WNBA star).
Getting the right gesture takes a bit of practice, and I’m still not 100% sure what the Kinect camera is tracking. But the overall feel of virtually shooting a basketball is spot on. Basically, anyone who’s held a b-ball before will have no problems here. Leaving the ground is optional, but some sense of upwards extension of the body as well as the arms seems to be most effective.
As you complete waves of shots against the clock, you’ll be positioned at different spots around the court. Nailing a shot from the edge of the 3-point circle is tough, but later on you’ll be shooting them from the halfway line (and probably throwing your back out in the process).
Shot Party is similar to the previous game, except this time there is a group of vinyl records circling around the net. While sinking the shot, you must smash the rotating green coloured records while avoiding any of the red ones. Why is there a ring of vinyl records? Because it’s a party of course... but then, why not balloons? Again, the goal is to see how many rounds you can last before the time runs out.
However it’s here in Shot Party mode that any body tracking glitches from the Kinect camera seem to be magnified. Because of the nature of this mode, you’ll quite often need to pace yourself and wait before taking a shot in order to avoid the ‘bad’ vinyl (must be Zip Zap Rap by Devastatin' Dave: The Turntable Slave). But, while you’re waiting, you’ll occasionally fire off a shot for no reason. It’s possible that this problem is throughout the game, but the other modes have players waving their arms and shooting so frantically you’re not likely to realise.
And finally the Alley-Oop Dreams mode is a little bit different, as you’re no longer the star of the show. Instead, you’ll set-up your teammates by passing the ball to them as they approach the net from either side of the screen. If you time your pass right, your AI controlled buddy will nail a slam-dunk in your honour.
As you progress, the game adds layers of challenges such as low and high passes, faster and more frequent runners, as well as opponents who will charge onto the screen expecting a pass. If you accidentally pass it to an opponent, who are coloured red to help you see them, you will lose points as a penalty. Just remember, green is good; red is bad.
From here it’s simply a race against the clock to score the most goals. But Alley-Oop Dreams is a surprisingly addictive activity once you come to grips with the timing and find your groove. The game also gets incredibly frantic the more you play it, with some of the later stages being a blur of green and red bodies for you to decipher. It’s easy to work up a sweat and naturally, equally easy to look like a mad P addict in the comfort of your own home.
For those wondering, after 10 minutes of Alley-Oop Dreams, I never once saw my AI teammate miss a shot once they had the ball (so no need to worry about Woody Harrelson wannabes who can’t jump). Even the guy in the awkward crocodile mascot suit was nailing dunks all over the place.
All three of these modes have up to four-player multiplayer, but it’s all turn based with players competing for a high-score. The option to shoot side-by-side with a friend in a race to see how many shots we could get in real-time would’ve been a bonus. Or even better, playing Alley-Oop Dreams where your mate has to run up to the Xbox and jump over the TV as you pass an imaginary ball to him. I’d pay to see a video of that.
In the visuals department, this DLC is exactly what you’d expect for Kinect Sports 2. The game is littered with bright colours, gentle animations and exploding particle effects up the booyah. But extra special mention has to go to the team in charge of the background crowd animations, as the bleachers are constantly packed with uniquely cheering avatars at all times. Sometimes it’s the little things that count and, for a bite-sized DLC, it’s good to see that Rare and BigPark haven’t cut corners visually.
Unfortunately, though, players will have to sit through annoying over-the-top commentary that I can only imagine has been recorded by an American pornstar from the 1970s. Thankfully the audio is redeemed with an adrenaline pumping ‘count-down’ from the crowd as the clock timer runs out. While we’re on the topic, I couldn’t find any voice activated extras seen in previous Kinect Sports activities either. But I hear that yelling out "BRING THE THUNDER!" at the top of your lungs just before every shot works wonders for your score.
For 400 Microsoft points, this Basketball DLC is worth a go for those loving Kinect Sports 2, but probably not good enough to breathe new life into the game if it’s been stored away since Xmas.