Animation is a timeless and beautiful thing. Allowing someone to sit down with a physical pencil or a high-tech animation suite is a recipe for self-expression. In certain hands, those tools can lead to a magical experience, which is something that the teams behind many colourful Disney and Pixar films have proven. With its unlimited scope and unparalleled potential, the animated film genre is the least restricting of them all. As a result, it’s no surprise that it produces so many uniquely wonderful releases. Grown adults may not watch the latest and greatest of these digitally produced blockbusters, but they’ll easily melt while describing some of the industry’s classics.
Growing up, all kids were taught to fuel their imagination, in order to be able to think outside of the box. Some of those creative thoughts have made their way onto film, creating some of the more magical experiences that different generations will never forget. The baby boomers had Walt Disney and his magical library, while the more recent crop of humanity has been blessed with Pixar‘s digital talents. Combining the two companies has resulted in a set of jaw-dropping masterpieces that meld child-friendly content with hints of adult subjectivity.
After analyzing Kinect and its motion gaming target audience, Microsoft struck a deal with the modern day animation giant to develop an all ages experience that would cull from the studio’s collaborations with Mickey’s creators. The folks from Asobo Studio were then brought in to develop what is now available as Kinect Rush: A Disney – Pixar Adventure. Focusing on kids and their diverse imaginations, the project brings together locations, characters and one off plot lines from five individual films: Up, Cars, Ratatouille, Toy Story and The Incredibles. Is that a cue for all ages video game magic? For the most part, yes.
For years, video games have been structured using a stage-based progression system. What this means is that beating one world usually ends up unlocking the next one. However, with a younger audience in mind, that design doesn’t necessarily work. Kids appreciate the option to jump into whichever part of an experience they want to, and waiting is a noted nuisance. To complement this target audience, all films’ imagination-fuelled universes have been unlocked from the start. Each one can be accessed in the small but creative Pixar Park, where the animated celluloid phenomenons’ biggest fans have met to come up with ideas for new adventures within their beloved lore.
Before stepping into the colourful park hub, one must make a brief pit stop in the character scanner. Kinect has the neat ability to use its cameras to import people or items into specific games. That feature unfortunately hasn’t been taken advantage of much, but it happens to play a major role within Kinect Rush. Using an on-screen indicator (complete with an outline), the device can quickly turn your real-life appearance into a child-like cartoon avatar.
Going in, I was skeptical about how well it would recreate my image, considering other games have tried similar camera tricks with mediocre at best results. Now, I’m eating my skepticism, because creating a character was a breeze. The end result was also a very impressive one, where even the colours of my clothing were analyzed. Those were used to help create the colour scheme for my unique film world characters (car, superhero, toy, explorer, and rat). All of them were detailed and well-designed, as well as uniquely me.
Once users have created their individual in-game likeness, it’s time to walk amongst digital nature. The main part of the Pixar Park looks like any of its peers; that is until you look out in any direction where locations and items from all of the movies are strategically placed. Three pads adorn each themed section, representing its list of stages. On the downside, there are only 15 of them in total, but replay value wasn’t overlooked. Playing through a (four to seven minute-long) stage once will allow access to its peer. Repeat that task twice per world and you’ll earn achievements for completing said celluloid representation. One play through isn’t enough to fully explore the game, however, as earned points add up to allow access to new abilities, secondary/tertiary goals, popular character buddies and other types of gifts. Players’ point totals are calculated at the end of each level, using a mathematical procedure that weighs time spent against coins earned. Metallic medals and movement related KinectShare achievements are also awarded.
In order to ever gain access to score awards, one must beat the selected stage. The Cars universe is understandably limited to driving missions, where skills must be showcased and objectives (i.e. catching up with a car carrying a bomb) must be completed. The rest of the action sequences are made up of various gameplay scenarios. Use a mixture of vehicle travel, puzzle solving and physical movements to help a toy get back to its rightful owner or paddle through moving rapids, in an attempt to save a floating house. Flight, vehicle maneuvering and time sensitive platforming segments are also found on the disc, along with boss battles that promote quick avoidance and a fast throwing arm. Repetition isn’t a grievous issue, as you’re almost always doing something different or, at the very least, a neat variation on a previously completed task. Granted, some stages are better than others, but that is to be expected.
Popular characters like Lightning McQueen, Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Incredible aid the player in his or her colourful conquest. Clapping hands will call upon their unique abilities at indicated times, providing access to a new area and its spoils. Some of these friendly faces are unlockable as playable avatars, but co-operating friends can also use their skills to aid your cause. Two players can play together; something that is perfect for parents who have young children or kids who have friends over. It is also important to note that certain abilities can be unlocked for the user’s characters, including a gliding suit, a whip and a recharging nitrous canister. They’re a part of the aforementioned points for unlocks system.
Kinect Rush: A Disney – Pixar Adventure caters to all audiences, but the younger gamers among us will have the most fun with it. Grasping its control system is easier than learning how to use a controller. On-screen indicators always show the required movements, but almost all of them are life-like in their physicality. Furthering that, most of the necessary actions are instinctual. Fly through the air by spreading your arms like a child pretending to fly, move forward by making a running motion, or drive a car by extending your arms and turning when necessary. Things really are that simple. It’s that simplicity that creates accessibility and ease. For the most part, everything works like it should (although the odd action failed to register at times), making this one of the most polished control schemes that Kinect has presented us with.
With such a beautiful digital canvas to take inspiration from, it would be a shame if Asobo Studio didn’t nail the look of this interactive Pixar Park. Thankfully, they did just that. The end result is a rich, colourful and detailed set of environments, with characters that also look the part. That visual style is a high-quality extension of what the companies’ depicted big screen releases. Sure, there’s a bit of a difference to be noted, but it’s tough to complain about a game that looks and performs better than almost all of its genre peers. No technical issues were encountered.
Although a lot of licensed games use sound-alikes for almost all of their voice over work, that isn’t the case here. To an extent, at least. A surprising amount of well-known actors have their vocal talents showcased, but there are some exceptions. Just about all of the characters sounded like I remembered, with the new help performing admirably. All of the charm remains in the digitally re-created heroes and heroines, heightened by the use of a fitting orchestral score. Even the kids you’ll meet sound quite good, although their repeated opening videos seemingly could not be skipped, causing a bit of frustration. Thankfully, they’re relatively brief.
Timeless is a word that enthusiastically describes both Disney and Pixar. Their followings are large, consisting of opinionated people who love their favourite film series. Kinect Rush: A Disney – Pixar Adventure is a gift to those folks, as well as motion gaming fans who happen to be young at heart and full of imagination. A lengthier list of missions would be been appreciated, but what’s included is both entertaining and well-designed. If you’ve been looking for a quality Kinect application, then your attention needs to be directed towards this impressive release.
This review is based on a copy of the game that we received for review purposes.