Considering the massive, almost baffling level of popularity Nintendo enjoyed with its system pack-in, Wii Sports, it's not altogether surprising that Microsoft would include a similar type of pack-in for its foray into motion-controlling technology. Perhaps to avoid direct comparison's to Nintendo's tech, that game is not Kinect Sports. Instead, it's Kinect Adventures, a collection of non-sporting minigames aimed to show off the myriad benefits of Kinect gaming through such activities as river rafting, bubble popping and leak plugging. As a demonstration of technology, Kinect Adventures is mostly successful. However, as a game, its qualities are a bit more scattershot.
The games that work the best are River Rush and Reflex Ridge. River Rush puts you on a raft that sails down one of a few different obstacle courses. You'll be side-stepping to steer and jumping in the air a lot to collect congregations of pins scattered throughout each course. Reflex Ridge also has you riding something (in this case an on-rails cart) while dodging various obstacles via jumping, ducking and side-stepping, as well as jumping around and contorting your body to collect the maximum numbers of pins. Again, what both these games have going from them is that each course finds a way to keep you guessing about which types of obstacles are about to come your way. These are also easily the best workout you'll get in Kinect Adventures, if that's the sort of thing you're into.
On the opposing side are 20,000 Leaks and Space Pop. In 20,000 Leaks, you're in a glass tank underwater, and dickish fish keep wandering up to crack the glass and spring leaks. You plug those leaks by contorting your body to cover them up. That's it. While it does make for some amusing body humor to watch people make these goofy positions, it's barely enough of a game to amuse beyond the first couple of play-throughs. Space Pop is lousy for different reasons. You're in a space station, and bubbles start flooding the room in various configurations. Because it's space, you can float around the room by flapping your arms, and drop back to the ground by pulling your hands to the side. While there's a bit more game here, it's also a colossal bore. At no point does the game ever find a way to make this act exciting or even amusing.
Sitting somewhere in the middle is Rally Ball, one of the first bits of Kinect technology Microsoft ever showed, and by far the most tech-demo-ish element of the game. This is basically human Breakout, where you're handed a dodgeball and tasked with tossing it at a bunch of moving targets while returning the ball over and over again by moving your limbs around the play space. Again, there's not an awful lot to this game. Hitting bonus targets will return volleys of balls back at you, which can be a little hectic, but by and large this whole game is just about arm and leg flailing. That said, it's a lot more satisfying to play (and fun to watch) than the two previously mentioned games.
The best thing you can say about any of these games is that the technology largely works as it should. I only ran into a few weird bits of my on-screen avatar flipping out due to me being unable to get into the position the game wanted me to get in (possibly due to couch-based constraints). That said, technology alone does not a game make. The lack of variety and mixed level of quality of the minigames in Kinect Adventures ultimately drags the experience down a few pegs. This becomes especially clear the longer you spend playing the game's adventure mode. While it does a decent job of mixing up the objectives with timing- and collection-based goals, the repetition of the same games over and over, with only moderate increases in difficulty to differentiate each play-through, makes the adventure mode feel like a lackluster grind. The rewards for playing also aren't terribly enticing, with perhaps the sole exception of the game's inexplicable living statue concept. What is a living statue? I could try and explain, but perhaps it's better to watch...
By the dual standards one generally judges a pack-in title by--specifically, whether the game showcases the newfangled technology you're purchasing alongside it appropriately, and whether or not it's any fun--Kinect Adventures comes up a bit short. While the technology is certainly sound, nothing on display here makes an overly compelling argument for the merits of Kinect, and though some of the games are fun--more so in multiplayer--too few of them are strong enough to keep the experience from wafting into the realm of the monotonous. New Kinect owners will undoubtedly have some fun early on with it, but Kinect Adventures seems destined to be more or less forgotten by the time the next wave of titles hits store shelves.