Kinect Sports: Season Two – Basketball Challenge Pack Review
Game: Kinect Sports: Season Two – Basketball Challenge Pack
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Available on: Xbox 360 with Kinect only
Kinect Sports and its sequel remain the most popular Kinect games on the system. The second title was a fine entry, which expanded upon the strengths of the first, which we gave a cool 8/10 to. For both of the games, Rare released several free and paid add-on packs that included new challenges and party games, or new courses to play on related to their core sports in each game. These expanded the basic experience and added some extra longevity overall.
However, now for the first time, Rare and Big Park have put together a challenge pack which will add an entirely new sport into Kinect Sports: Season Two. The Basketball Challenge Pack adds Basketball to the list of sports on offer, with the following game modes; Alley-Oop Dreams, Shot Party and 3-Point Hero. They are all open for both single and multiplayer gaming, and can be played in Quickplay, where you play it straight up, or Challenge Mode, where you set your best score and challenge a friend to beat it. All of the basic presentation, interaction and controls remain the same, so reference our full review for the basics, and we can concentrate on taking a look at the new modes.
I must begin by saying that none of the new modes include a tutorial to show you how to successfully perform each mode, all they give you is one line of text, telling you the objective. With the absence of the choice to participate in a full match-up, 3-Point Hero is the closest we get to a straight Basketball mode. The player is given the chance to shoot baskets from several positions on the court, moving from close to the basket to almost the full length of the court. Given five balls to throw from each spot, the player has to score as many baskets as they can in a minute, but are also given a bonus time each time they successfully score the fifth ball at each location. So in theory, as long as you keep netting your fifth ball, irrespective of whether you get the rest in, your time will be extended over and over again, allowing you to carry on playing. The game is simple to control, asking you to perform jumping lay-up shots. Make sure you perform a straight throwing action whilst you jump; but don’t throw too hard! Getting the balance between accuracy, speed and power takes a little getting used to, but the mode quite closely mirrors the shooting skills that you would require in a real game of Basketball.
Shot Party is a little more abstract. You shoot free throws at the target, music records rotate around the basket. Hitting a silver record as you shoot will add 1X to your multiplier, which goes up to a maximum of 10X, with each record hit also changes the current background music. Hitting a black record will lose you five seconds of your minute you begin with. Clear an entire ring of records successfully, and you receive a time bonus and a new set of records to aim for. All of this time, you are given points for scoring baskets, which will be added to your score, while also being affected by your current multiplier level. You more or less never miss when you shoot in this mode, so you don’t have to worry about possessing a lack of skill, but you will have to time your throws, so as to not hit the black targets. That is as deep as this mode gets, and it isn’t one likely to hold your attention for long.
Finally Alley-Oop Dreams sees players working on their passing skills. You stand at the edge of the shooting area, and your team-mates will run, or indeed leap, towards the basket, waiting for you to pass the ball to them. A green target will appear above their head at the time that you should make your pass, so you have a limited window to successfully make the pass, but the action required to do so is very simple. You can more or less stand still in this mode and simply fling an arm to the left or to the right, depending on the general direction of the player you wish to pass to. Players in green Dragon suits will give you bonus time, but avoid passing to players wearing red Dragons suits, as they will lose you time. Again, little to no skill is needed for this mode, you just need a bit of speed when your team-mates begin to appear on-screen more rapidly. You don’t even get a good workout from this mode, as you are largely stationary for it.
VERDICT: The lack of both a specialised tutorial for the sport (which all other sports in the package are given in the settings screen), and a full, competitive Basketball match, are very disappointing. It is very difficult to learn the intricacies of throwing a successful shot when you are given no guidance as to how the in-game controls work. Fair enough, it is fairly simple to pick up and play, but if you are struggling to get the hang of it, you will get no help here. Whereas Football in the first Kinect Sports may be a little frantic and unrefined, there is nothing quite like the head-to-head competitive play of taking part in a full match; and that is sorely missing here, as all of the Basketball modes are just mini-games.
That said, they aren’t really very enjoyable mini-games. 3-Point Hero isn’t bad, and would work well as a mini-game companion to a full Basketball mode, but it isn’t strong enough to carry the whole challenge pack, when both Shot Party and Alley-Oop Dreams are so shallow and skill-free. Perhaps this shows us just why all previous DLC has been simply extra challenges and mini-games, maybe it is too hard to integrate a full new sport into the game. As such, the Basketball Challenge pack just feels too lightweight and incomplete.