XBLA Double Fine’s Happy Action Theater makes Kinect not suck!
It has been a long, hard road for Kinect to gain respect. A road that continues to be an uphill kind of road. Muddling through crappy bundled games was only half the battle since finding a healthy niche in gaming application hasn’t been quite as impressive as the device being turned into an instant robot head.
But I digress, some folks got together and found a way to include a bunch of people in a game that includes a bunch of varied activities that mange to be both weird and fun as hell. Imagine stomping buildings while occasional snapshots are taken as you destroy downtown as a stories tall giant monster. Consider splashing around in a lava pit. Grow a garden, swat away hordes of pigeons, kick balls around and stop in sudden horror in realizing that you’re actually having fun! FUN!
OH MY GOD!!!!
After the cut, let’s talk about why Microsoft should REALLY consider bundling with their damn device instead of Rare’s rushed crap or embarrassingly stupid Star Wars garbage.
Double Fine is… weird. Beyond weird. They are the biggest batshit bucket of weird currently operating in the video game industry and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re unfortunate to be within smelling distance of my nerd glands, you will hear me bring up one of their works weekly such as Psychonauts, Brutal Legend, Stacking, Costume Quest and Sesame Street’s Once Upon a Monster. They are a brilliantly funny and shockingly creative outfit that tends to lean toward awesome every time.
Keep in mind that their concepts alone will likely prompt a totally unwarranted smile upon your face and Happy Action Theater is no exception, but enough gushing about these game carnies. Let us speak of the game itself and what it represents for Kinect software at large.
The primary gimmick of HAT is to display a mirror image of yourself moving around in the very same space in front of your TV, but transporting you to different environments laying cities, parks and lava in your living room where your physical movements affect the game. I admit, it sounds pretty crazy, but upon playing the demo I couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off my face.
Imagine water flowing into your mirrored reflection and being able to splash around in it without touching it. It’s a weird, but intriguing idea that keeps itself from getting old too fast by resetting itself during its primary mode moving from different game to different game. It’s so simple as a concept, yet its amazingly brilliant at the same time. It stands as the perfect demonstration of Kinect and probably the strongest success the device has known to date, yet it didn’t receive the amount of fanfare I would have hoped such a game might get.
I didn’t even bother looking at it until Daison clubbed me with a frozen fish and threatened to kill me unless I went home and purchased the game. Fearing for my life, I tried to demo first and bought the game five minutes later. Relieved that I was no longer in danger and having tons of fun prancing about my living room like a buffoon (nothing new there); I played through several rounds until I tired out and dragged my wife in to play. I make as many excuses to turn it on when people visit just to gauge their reaction and it is glorious.
It may not have the depth that a 7 to 40 hour game might contain, but it has strong replay value and is pretty much the definitive Kinect party game despite the claim of other titles on the Xbox 360. The room floods full of lava?! Destroy the city?! Yes, please! What it lacks in depth, it makes up for in fun and originality. I remember the Wii having similar results with people, however briefly and this is vastly more impressive to witness and even more impressive to play.
Given all the massive Kinect failures out there, it is refreshing to see such an ingenious title available, but what I can’t comprehend is why Microsoft didn’t slap that shit on a disc ASAP! Why isn’t it immediately replacing the Kinect Adventures game? Why isn’t it being actively marketed on television? This is the one thing that restored my faith in the device aside from its use for Dance Central and as a Netflix voice remote. This is probably the most important Kinect game I could name and seeing how kids react to it should probably make it the forefront of Microsoft’s Kinect pimping methods.
While Double Fine is still counting their kickstarter money for their amazing project (that SADLY isn’t Psychonauts 2), we can hope their current adventure game project might boast some Kinect compatibility or that once they finish doing what they’re doing that they come back to make the Kinect a happier place. Again.
I have personally witnessed sober people act drunk as hell in the presence of this game and it only seems to get more fun each time. For the price it’s the best deal you’ll get on Kinect and doesn’t prompt thoughts of suicide because of its device affiliation. I’ve gotten some weird things including Once Upon a Monster for Kinect and this is probably the game I have played the most. Other games are beginning to understand the mixed play aspect including the controller while you yell and wave your arms, but this is solid controllerless play that can include a load of people that will piss themselves laughing at themselves.
Cookie Monster didn’t even think to pitch a game THAT fun.
If you have a Kinect, PLAY THIS. If you don’t and your friend has it, MAKE THEM PLAY THIS WITH YOU!