Kinect Party is the joy of playing pretend, distilled into video game form
Kinect Party may be the most aptly-named product I have ever played. With Double Fine’s sequel to Happy Action Theater, the concept is simple: you have Kinect? You have a party. Even better, it follows through on the premise nigh-flawlessly.
Kinect Party boots up with a group of actors on stage, holding various props. Each prop represents a channel, each channel contains a mini-game. You can pick through the 36 total mini-games one at a time or have them shuffle, randomly swapping between various mini-games and experiences. Some mini-games are free, but the ones new to Kinect Party cost $1 each to unlock, or $10 to get the whole bunch. There are plenty of options to explore with tons of variety, including games where players don costumes, be part of a dubstep party, or create ghost recordings of themselves for playback.
My personal favorite was what I’m going to call “Monsters Attack!” a mode where players stomp through a city rendered on your television, augmented reality-style. You can knock over buildings and smack down planes, and it’s all done in black-and-white ‘50s monster movie style. A similar mode has you build a medieval fantasy style castle, only to turn into a dragon a moment later to wreck the place. One of the Kinect’s earliest concepts was a child stomping through a city as a giant monster; this is the fulfillment of that tech demo.
Another great channel is a shooter, where players stand with their arms outstreched to aim lasers at incoming projectiles as they come down an electric, neon-colored tunnel. Or, you could play a Breakout-inspired level where you bounce pine cones to knock out blocks of fruit and wildlife. These are the gamiest parts of the experience.
Not all the experiences are so refined, however. There’s a channel where you control streams of electricity, but it was difficult to figure out what would make the streams start and stop. While shuffling through random channels, I also found one that simply made players take the place of bowling pins while a turkey rolled over them. It was short and, since none of the channels have explicit goals or instructions, by the time we figured out what was happening the experience was already over. Luckily the less impressive interactions are always followed by something better.
There are no leaderboards, but Kinect Party features the option to connect to your Facebook account. You can post all sorts of funny images Go on, embarrass your friends. Show everyone what they look like wearing a pirate costume.
I didn’t have any young kids around to playtest with me; just several grown adults who were happy to run around, pretending to knock over buildings and play dress-up. We got frustrated at the lack of accuracy provided by Kinect several times, but it was outweighed by the simple joy of play. Kinect Party would be fantastic for house parties – just turn on and allow players to discover it on their own.
Kinect Party omits the word “game” from its title and description, and for good reason: this is a toolbox more than a set of objectives for completion. That’s a freeing decision, and it’s also free through the rest of the year. You have nothing to lose, and I’m guessing you’re going to be spending time with family very soon. That’s the best excuse to play.