Kinect may not have been received by the Xbox community quite the way the way Microsoft had hoped, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some top quality titles released for use with the chunky little desk topper. Those that have paid any attention to the Kinect-only titles will be aware of the Virtual Air Guitar Company – but for those of you who haven’t, they are the independent developers behind the majority of the best Kinect games on the market.
Once more they have returned with another game, and a sequel this time to one of the best Kinect games of 2014. So, I decided to take a break from my seated gaming position, ditch the quest filled RPGs and run and gun first person shooters to instead get to my feet and boom some balls with Boom Ball 2 for Kinect, the latest game from the Virtual Air Guitar Company.
The idea behind Boom Ball 2 For Kinect (its full name) is simple enough – players are tasked with hitting the on screen ball into a number of different coloured bricks and bombs found inside the invisible barriers, all in order to break them and remove the bricks from the area. Sound familiar? Damn right it does, the gameplay ideas for Boom Ball 2 certainly bear resemblance with that of popular retro title, Breakout, which most of you are sure to have played at some point. But Boom Ball 2 is no copycat, yet it still provides just as much fun, if not more so. Boom Ball 2, much like its predecessor, switches out the top down view found in Breakout and the various paddle and ball meets brick clones and instead puts the player into a first-person perspective, swapping the simplistic bat of old with your own hands being used as paddles.
Having not had the chance to play the original Boom Ball for Kinect it was all new to me, but believe me when I tell you that this may be the most enjoyable way to play. And may even be better than the classic Breakout itself.
There are 49 levels within Boom Ball 2 to work through, with a bonus level 50 that provides a playable extra as a way to make the credits screen engaging. Getting through each stage is simple enough; you have five lives in which to break all the bricks, whilst missing a ball as it bounces back at you will see a life lost.
If your goal is to do nothing more than complete each level, then Boom Ball 2 won’t really provide much of a challenge for you. In fact, a couple of hours at most will be more than enough to blast through the various stages to reach the end. Those expecting nothing more than a simple children’s game however, may well find themselves surprised at what’s on offer with Boom Ball 2. Each level has four stars that can be attained depending on how well you do. Specific time goals take up two of the medals, with one available for beating both Silver and Gold times. The other medals available are for simple level completion and the much harder to achieve, ‘no balls lost’ medal, something which proved much more difficult than I expected.
The first set of levels start the player off slowly, with later ones adding in different variations of bricks that can either aid your chances of achieving quick times, or halt them entirely. Such things include explosive bricks, powerups bringing multi-ball and larger balls, as well as those that can power through almost anything in one hit. Then of course, there are those bricks put in place to stop your progression; steel bricks can’t be broken and regenerating bricks can rebuild an entire level unless destroyed.
One thing that is sure to please fans of the original is the inclusion of co-op play this time around. Whilst it’s fair to say that Boom Ball 2 is certainly a blast to play by yourself, having co-op play really makes a difference. In co-op, both players can play at the same time through each of the 50 levels in the game, however there is just one issue that can make this slightly more challenging than it ought to be.
Unfortunately, this issue concerns the slightly dodgy motion controls this time out. The only controls you really have to focus on are holding your hand in position to select options, and moving around the screen to hit the ball – or balls – but they aren’t quite as smooth as you would expect for a Kinect title. There were many times during my playthrough in which I would struggle to hit a ball that was heading for my top corner simply because my actions were not being recognised. This isn’t game breaking, but after losing three or four balls when you’re going for that elusive no balls lost medal due to unrecognised motion controls, then there’s certainly need for improvement.
Even though the motion controls are in need of a little tweaking to bring things up to scratch this time out, it must be said that Boom Ball 2 For Kinect is an impressive title nonetheless. It marks the arrival of another great addition to the Kinect-only library, and with the most requested cooperative feature finally implemented, fans of the original should definitely give it a go.