The defending champ looks for a repeat

When Kinect launched last year, several titles showed off the possibility of the peripheral, but few had the lasting appeal of Kinect Sports. Fun when played individually—but truly appreciated with a group of friends—the game made a clear, lasting impression on the casual market. Now, Microsoft looks to see if they can reel in soccer moms again with Kinect Sports: Season Two. American football, baseball, golf, darts, tennis, and skiing are all featured in this newest iteration—and if you thought you broke a sweat before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I tried out football first—and it was easily the most grueling, as I had to run in place for receptions and kick returns. On top of this, I had to get down under center; standing signaled my virtual center to hike the ball. Though I had a lot of fun playing offense, I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if I could’ve also played defense instead of just watching the box score to see how my AI opponent did during its possession. But when it comes to picking-up, throwing, and kicking motions, the game’s almost more exciting than a real-life pick-six.

Moving to baseball, I tried my hand at a home-run-derby-style minigame before stepping into the batter’s box for a couple of quick two-inning games. Again, a lot of running was involved, as I beat out ground balls for infield singles whenever I couldn’t drive the ball into the gap or over the fence. But there was just one problem: The game seemed to have issue with my swing—because of my power-hitting demeanor, I have a big leg kick. Anyone who’s hit the diamond in real life knows that the leg kick comes first, but I guess I have a few too many moving parts in my stroke, and I’d sometimes trigger the swing a couple of seconds too early. Once I reined in my herky-jerky motion, though, the game worked a lot better.

Darts was a lot less involved physically—but also much more frustrating, because I just couldn’t seem to get my shots lined up correctly. It was also the only game where I couldn’t even beat the Rookie CPU, because I’d always just miss my mark. Skiing was also relatively simple, as I leaned left and right to make it through the series of slalom gates, but I had a lot more fun with the obstacle course, since that was a lot more involved—I jumped, ducked, and swerved on a much more regular basis.

Tennis wasn’t very involving, either, since the game controls all of your lateral movements. You’ve just got to focus on your swing, whether it’s a forehand or a backhand. In fact, the best part of tennis might’ve actually been the hot chick doing the tutorial tennis video!

Finally, it was time to hit the links, and this was the first golf game I’ve ever played where the putting mechanic worked so well that I actually ended up with a score under par. Between my practice swings, my caddy offering advice, and the Kinect sensor picking up my movements precisely, I started to realize why some people actually enjoy playing a sport that’s so horribly boring to watch on TV.

All in all, each game’s quite polished, and the sensor bar does its job throughout—which, to me, is the most critical element of a Kinect game. My only concern is that Season Two could lose its luster in single-player, so you’ll need to rely on the Xbox Live challenge mode, where you and your pals try to one-up your best scores, or get really obsessed with the new calorie counter. Also, hearing a British dude talk about American football felt weird, but I can forgive that because of the awesome licensed music. All in all, Kinect Sports: Season Two is a worthy successor to the first—and easily the premiere casual Kinect experience.

SUMMARY: A worthy successor to the first—and easily the premiere casual Kinect experience.

  • THE GOOD: Six new sports in the vein of the original Kinect Sports
  • THE BAD: Some motions—especially in American football and baseball
  • THE UGLY: Several of the sport-tutorial video models (not tennis girl, though—she’s hot!)

SCORE: 7.0