In the world of motion games, sports reign supreme and Microsoft has decided to add one of your favorite pastimes to it’s repertoire. If track and field in Kinect Sports didn’t float your boat, perhaps baseball will better suit your refined palette. If you’re like me and harbor a deep, perhaps unusual love of the game (and apple pie), then you’ll be ecstatic to know that baseball in Kinect Sports: Season Two does the opposite of suck.
I experience this for my self at this year’s PAX in Seattle. If you’ve played Wii Sports, the layout won’t blow your mind on Kinect. The screen is split between batter and pitcher. Players choose their preferred hand and assume the proper stance. I was up to bat first and was certain that my two and a half years spent playing softball in elementary school would pay off. I’d hit a ball once. That had to count for something. Then the pitcher pitched and I, the batter, failed to bat.
One swing-and-a-miss later, I re-adjusted my stance and finally knocked it right down the foul line. I was surprised by how much of a difference maintaining a proper batting stance made on the success of my hits. Once I figured that out, it pretty much boiled down to timing. Hitting early results in balls flying through left field, late turns into right, but if you want to drive it through center field or knock it out of the park, you’ll have to wait for that sweet spot. If it’s a close call, the screen wills shift and you’ll be forced to physically run to your base. As expected, the faster you run in real life, the faster your little avatar flails. Stand still and the player will jog at a leisurely pace and you’ll most likely end up with an out on the board. Extend a leg as you approach and you’ll slide on in. This isn’t usually necessary; a dead sprint is just fine. The fielders will also have a chance to catch pop flies and will have to line their glove up with a spot on screen that flashes very quickly. This was perhaps the most challenging aspect of the game. Difficult, but not impossible to master.
Pitching proved to be a little more rewarding to me as I found that the efforts I made to exaggerate my throw paid off. I attempted a serious pitch right off the bat (hurr hurr), knee in the air, long follow through, and discovered that my Cy Young impression turned into ten consecutive fastballs. If you want this to feel like real baseball, then go right ahead. All those years of honing your technique will payoff, much unlike the Wii Sports incarnation we knew once upon a time. You can’t get away with a flick of the wrist home run. This is serious baseball business.
Each game in Kinect Sports: Season Two will have voice support. While the function was disabled in the PAX demo, Microsoft wants players to call out for their star pitcher or batter. The star pitcher/batter will temporarily grant players boosted skills, making home runs and strike outs more likely, respectively.
PAX was all about the big baseball reveal and frankly, I can understand the excitement. Well-made sports games are must-haves on the Kinect and Season Two is shaping up to be a wonderful addition to the motion sports library. Besides, it’s baseball. You know you want some baseball.