I'm playing a game of darts against a rather devious opponent. She's a trash talker this one, and she revels in besting me at what should be my own game. My opponent only has 40 points left (we're playing the old countdown-from-501 standby) and it's her turn to throw. She hits a ten, then a double ten, and then looks straight at me with a smile. As she lines up her final dart, I'm shouting "Noonan!" repeatedly to distract her, but it doesn't matter. With cold precision she hits a double 5 to win the game.
My opponent starts dancing and celebrating and I've been humbled. I've just lost the first of two straight games of darts in Kinect Sports: Season Two to my 11-year old daughter and I have an entire weekend to hear about it. This is a girl who I could crush in any first-person shooter, but this is Kinect, where the playing field is even.
When it comes to family and casual games, there is no device more popular at Casa De Terrones than the Kinect. With the release of the original Kinect Sports last year, Wii Sports was officially replaced as the family game of choice. By giving gamers six new sports, Season Two breathes fresh life into the series. It lacks the originality of its predecessor, but it's certainly a welcome addition for those who enjoy jumping around in front of their Xbox with family and friends.
One new and long overdue feature in Season Two is the in-game voice commands. No more waving your arms around like Daniel LaRusso waxing Mr. Miyagi's cars. Now you can just "say what you see" and move through the menus to select events by saying single- or multiple-word phrases. Voice control is best used while playing a game. You can change pitchers or batters in baseball, change clubs in golf, call plays and audibles in football, and even object to an umpire's line calls in tennis.
The real highlight of Season 2, however, is getting a chance to play six new sports. The latest offerings are an odd combination, but they sure are fun. Golf, skiing, and tennis are all solid, if simple. Straightforward gameplay with basic motions is the name of the game, making these three sports easy for younger or inexperienced players to jump into. Golf requires a little more touch, and at times feels very much like its Wii counterpart minus the controller, but it's no less addictive.
But it's baseball and the surprisingly addictive darts that are the stars as they use the Kinect the most effectively. Pitching and hitting actually require some strategy and skill. Batters can be struck out with the right type of pitches and hitting is just challenging enough to keep you from randomly swinging away. Darts is my personal favourite -- I get so focused into locking in my target and throwing my imaginary dart ever so carefully that I often catch myself literally releasing my fingers as if there was a dart in my hand. It's that engrossing. Being able to distract you're A.I. opponent by waving your arms and a raucous crowd add character to the game.
In many ways Season Two is just as much fun, if not even more enjoyable, than the original Kinect Sports, but it still falls short in some areas. Football was the game I was most looking forward to playing, but it turned out to be the biggest disappointment as it was the game least like its real-life counterpart. Not getting to play defence is somewhat understandable, but being unable to avoid tacklers, and the lack of any kind of running game just makes for a watered-down experience.
Season Two also feels light on content, leading to a game that, at times, has a Kinect Sports 1.5 vibe. The new sports and voice command features work well, but aside from a very bare-bones Challenge mode where you play mini-games for Xbox Live friends to beat, there's not as significant a difference between the two titles as you'd expect.