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Kinect games on Xbox One offer something different

SINGAPORE — With the Xbox One reaching our shores tomorrow, Microsoft has prepared a slate of games to go with the launch.

SINGAPORE — With the Xbox One reaching our shores tomorrow, Microsoft has prepared a slate of games to go with the launch.

Most of the focus will be on games such as Bungie’s first-person shooter Destiny and EA Sports’ FIFA 15, but these games will also be — or have already been — released on Sony’s PlayStation 4.

Nonetheless, Microsoft still has some tricks up its sleeve — some Xbox One bundles come with the updated Kinect motion controller. And two Kinect games released this month offer something different — Dance Central Spotlight and D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die.

Shake it up with Dance Central Spotlight

With Dance Central Spotlight, rhythm game makers Harmonix have updated their best-selling Xbox 360 Kinect game series for the new Kinect with new songs and better graphics.

If you have given Dance Central a go, you will find that the game is mostly unchanged: You dance to a set choreography, by either mirroring the onscreen character or looking to the side to see what move is coming up.

You start each song at the easiest level and unlock new choreography by perfecting moves. There is enough variety in difficulty to let novices and experts have fun, but it is a pity that experienced dancers cannot just unlock the entire song at once, even if it is one they have mastered in earlier instalments of Dance Central.

Still, fans of the old series will have much to enjoy. Other than old songs returning, most old characters are back. There is also no story mode — Dance Central Spotlight is all about dancing, and that core gameplay remains as addictive as ever.

Dance Central has generally been the strongest reason to own a Kinect. I know at least three people who bought an Xbox 360 just for earlier Dance Central games and it remains one of Singapore’s favourite party games. With Dance Central Spotlight, the magic is back.

Retail price: S$12.90. Additional songs cost S$2.60 each. An Xbox 360 version will be released at a later date.

Rating: 4/5

Living lucid dreams

Adventure games might not be the most popular genre, but recent titles such as Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead show they are a great vehicle for telling amazing stories. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is a Kinect-powered adventure game that is, in a word, weird. But in a good way.

With director SWERY (Hidetaka Suehiro) at the helm, fans of cult favourite Deadly Premonition will know what they’re in for: A strange yet funny murder mystery.

D4 is an episodic game where you play David Young, an ex-Boston Police Department detective who quit in order to solve his wife’s murder. The trauma causes him to lose his memories, but also gives him the power to time travel. The only clue he has to solve the murder is to search for “D”, whomever or whatever it might be.

Most of the action in the game is motion controlled: Select where you want to go or interact with, through a wave of the hand and a clenching of the fist. But it is in action sequences where the Kinect really shines: You are brought into the action by onscreen prompts, which will have you swinging your arms or shouting at the screen to trigger your next move. It sounds silly on paper, but SWERY has managed to make it work.

Dialogue options can be selected by hand or verbally — and it functions well, as long as you set correctly the language settings on the Xbox One. You can rest your tired arms by using the controller, but the motion-control experience is the better option.

What stops the game from getting totally immersive is how you need stamina for every move. There is a lot to explore in each area and stopping causes the game to lose momentum.

At some points, it is clear to see how SWERY has filtered various influences (Cop shows and David Lynch) through his own vision, but kudos to him for how he has blended them together in a mixture that is trippy and compelling.

With a title like D4: Dark Dreams Must Die, it is clear the game is not your usual shoot-them-up. While the cell-shaded graphics are not quite “next-generation” and the quirkiness really isn’t for everyone, D4 is weird, compelling, hilarious and surreal — and a blast to play.

Retail price: S$19.90.

Rating: 4/5

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