Thursday, August 11, 2011

Xbox Summer of Arcade: Fruit Ninja Kinect, Renegade Ops

Fruit! Slicing! It can only be Fruit Ninja Kinect!
Arriving this week for review on Xbox Live Arcade is an already popular game on smartphones the world over. Now infused with motion capture, I was keen to see how the new iteration, Fruit Ninja Kinect, would compare to its low-budget counterpart.

The Summer of Arcade’s latest iteration reeks of marketing push more so than any of the other titles to date. Since its release, Microsoft’s motion-capturing Kinect hardware has sorely suffered from a dearth of quality games to entice and encourage a strong user base. This seemed to be acknowledged and even forcibly remedied at E3, when Microsoft nigh-on dedicated their entire conference to extolling the virtues of Kinect whilst demonstrating a plethora of titles that would be making use of it in the near future. So really it comes as no surprise that one of the Summer of Arcade entries would favour the new control scheme. The trouble is that is doesn’t do it well.

Immediately upon loading it up, Fruit Ninja Kinect is a disappointment. Eschewing the now commonplace approach to Kinect games, the menu system attempts to employ slicing actions in order to navigate, rather than the hover-to-confirm system that works perfectly well elsewhere. The upshot is that I had no idea what I was selecting when I moved my hands. Eventually I ended up in a game, after it almost made me quit four times. This sort of unwelcome disorientation does not encourage me to purchase.

It's certainly one way to get your five a day.
Which neatly leads on to another issue I have with it: On the phone marketplace, you can pick up Fruit Ninja for around one dollar. To buy the Xbox version? Around 10 times that. This inclined me to download the phone version, just to see where Xbox might have justified such a price hike. The outcome was even worse than originally anticipated: not only were the two versions largely similar, the phone version was actually more enjoyable. Freed from misguided menu design, the game was a far more streamlined and pleasant affair.

To summarise, I’m not sold on Fruit Ninja Kinect at all. Of the four titles, it is the least enticing entry of the lot, even less so than From Dust, which at least functions as intended. FNK feels as if it has been rushed to release, and never playtested once during development. It’s safe to miss this one. Download it on your smartphone, and you may find it a pleasant distraction during your morning commute. On the Xbox, I can’t imagine you wanting to play it over anything else you might already have.

Explosions abound in Avalanche's arcade shooter.
Also this week, Giant Bomb posted a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quicklook for the new title from Avalanche Studios, creators of the Just Cause franchise. Renegade Ops looks just about as arcade as they come: a top-down, dual-thumbstick shooter that looks like a cross between Geometry Wars and The A Team. Play consists of choosing a character, with requisite special ability, and ploughing through reams of military compounds in order to dutifully lay waste to almost everything in sight. It’s reasonably frantic, full of explosions, and no doubt a whole heap of fun. There was mention of multiplayer as well which, from the looks of things, would do best in some variety of co-op configuration. Due for release in September, it looks to worthy of further investigation at a later date.

Clanker's Cavern is still a steampunk pipedream.
Lastly, I have spent the occasional evening recently delving back into the childhood treasure trove of joy that is Rare’s Nintendo 64 smash hit Banjo-Kazooie. Watching Alice: Madness Returns last month reminded me of something, but  couldn’t quite place it. After a mere few hours with the bear and bird, my memory was jogged, and it was their platforming hijinks of which I had been reminded. The game still holds up, although I had forgotten how frustrating the swimming is, thus rendering the underwater segments haphazard fluke-successes more than anything else. Regardless, the twosome still make for swell company.

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