Last year's Kinect Sports gave players the chance to experience a wide array of sports in the comfort of their homes. Building on that success, Kinect Sports Season Two brings six different sports and a new Challenge Play mode to the fold. From American favorites football and baseball to individual sports like downhill skiing and golf, there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy. While there are some issues, this is still a pretty fun collection of sporting events that should appeal to a wide range of players.
Of the six sports available, skiing is without a doubt the easiest and most enjoyable to play. In the slalom races, you navigate your skier through flag gates or around obstacles, and you do this by shifting your body either left or right. To gain speed, you tuck in your body, and in some situations, you need to either jump to get air or duck to avoid objects. The difficulty from the various courses and your competition moves at a nice pace so that you always feel like you stand a good shot at winning. Baseball gives you the opportunity to field, pitch, and bat. Batting requires you to time your swing so that it connects with a nice hit. If your hit travels to the infield or shallow outfield, then a minigame opens up that has you running as quickly as possible to first base to avoid being called out; you can even slide by putting your foot forward in an attempt to beat the throw.
Pitching is also easy and incorporates a minigame in which the pitcher needs to perform specific pitches that the batter doesn't like. This may have you going from one batter who hates straight fastballs to one that doesn't like it when you pitch with your left hand. You can still pitch the way you want, but matching the catcher's suggestion helps you get a strikeout. Golf and tennis are straightforward and similar to what you've seen in other motion-controlled sports games. Your swing and placement heavily play into what happens next. The main issue with golf is that some aiming requires you to shift your entire body left or right of the screen, which results in some problems with the Kinect sensor not registering the swing or asking that you get back into position. If you have enough space to move around, then this isn't be a problem.
While the first four sports are all easy to play and enjoyable, darts and football are the least fun. For football, you play as the offense, and your objective is to score a touchdown or settle for a field goal attempt within your four tries to reach the end zone. Tracking is fairly problematic with football in a number of different situations. Running with the ball, regardless of how fast you may be sprinting, never really amounts to a significant gain. Even in situations where your receiver catches the ball in open space, the computer quickly catches up to you and makes the tackle. You also can't shift or juke, so you're always running in a straight line. As the quarterback, there is no way of avoiding a sack other than hoping your throw registers as you are being taken to ground. You can slightly shift before throwing, but it would have been nice to be able to scramble and run for yards. Another issue with football is that there is no defensive play. Baseball allows you to play on the field and as a batter, but when you're not with the ball in football, you're stuck watching the other person play. Or if you're playing against the AI, you have to watch a result screen until it's your turn with the ball. If the ability to play on defense had been included, it might have made football so much more engaging. One last problem with football is that for some odd reason, you begin each half with the ball when playing against the computer.
While football may not live up to its potential, darts is almost unplayable and requires a lot of fine-tuning with the Kinect sensor to get it running in a reasonable manner. The object of darts is simple: Take your score from 501 to zero before your opponent. The problem with darts in Kinect Sports Season Two is that the sensor has a hard time determining where a particular throw is intended to go. In too many situations, a shot that is meant to go to the lower-right side ends up landing on the upper-left side of the dartboard. A game like darts requires accuracy to win; thus, having to fight with the sensor to line up the proper shot results in the greatest degree of frustration.
As for modes, a concern with Kinect Sports last year was that you needed to play with others either online or in the same room to get the most out of the game. While Season Two still features both local and online play, a new mode called Challenge Play gives you the opportunity to play with friends without having them online or available at any given moment.
Challenge Play allows to you play a number of different games and sports, then submit your score to a friend and have him or her try to better it. Every sport, with the exception of football, gives you the opportunity to challenge others. In tennis, you have Smash Alley, which has you hitting tennis balls at mascots on the court and trying to amass the highest score before a timer runs out. With skiing and golf, you can submit your score/time on a particular course and see if a friend can do better. Because it doesn't require both participants to be online at the same time, Challenge Play makes competing with friends a much bigger and more convenient part of the Kinect Sports experience. You can send a number of different challenges to friends, and they can either accept or reject the challenge when they wish.
Among the other additions to Season Two is the ability to issue voice commands. Navigating through menus by stating what you see onscreen makes getting to your sport of choice a much simpler affair. Voice commands are also implemented in a few of the sports, with football taking the most advantage of the feature. Not only can you select your plays verbally, but you can also hike the ball by command and even issue an audible at the line of scrimmage if you see a weakness in the defense. Outside of the problems with darts and gripes about the lack of options in football, there is bound to be a sport here that will keep you and others occupied for long periods of time. While the single-player side of things hasn't seen much of an improvement, if you have friends to submit challenges to through Challenge Play, then there is bound to be a lot of smack talk. Kinect Sports Season Two might not offer a huge change over last year, but it is still a fun experience for Kinect owners.