In our younger days, we would all have had crazy and wild dreams – dreams which we think we are going to achieve regardless of anything that might stand in our way. For me, one of the many expectancies was that I would be an epic rock god, despite not really having an appreciation for rock music until high school. Hell, the magazines made it look amazing, so that’s what I was going to be. Fast forward 20 years and that’s no longer the case. Sure I own a guitar, and I know how to play it, but the rock god thing… that went down the drain, just like being a professional footballer, being an astronaut and being a secret agent.
Sometimes though a game can come along and you know, just from looking at it, that at some point the developers have had those same dreams too.
This time round, that game comes in the form of Air Guitar Warrior for Kinect from the Virtual Air Guitar Company, and this was my one last chance to live the dream of becoming a rock god. But just how good was the experience?
Air Guitar Warrior for Kinect – yes that is the full name – is, as you’d probably guessed, the latest Kinect title from the guys over at Virtual Air Guitar Company. These are the same guys responsible for bringing the classic Boom Ball series and many other Kinect related titles to the console, and are pretty much the only ones still putting faith in the trusty old Kinect. But is Air Guitar Warrior up to the same standard we have come to expect from our favourite Kinect developer? Well, unfortunately not. Not entirely at least.
Now before we get any further, or you stop reading because you think I’ve spoiled it by giving things away to early, it’s worth noting that Air Guitar Warrior isn’t a terrible game, but there are a few things that need touching up before I’m found to be recommending this one to the masses.
Throughout the game players take on the role of a Guitar Warrior, straddled onto the back of increasingly weirder and progressively mystical modes of transportation, as you head throughout the universe looking to best the rock gods everywhere. At least that’s what I got from the game, as there isn’t really a story at such in place.
In doing this, players work through the various levels, each of which represent a track on an album, with five songs on each. The first five levels are basic beginner type stuff, whilst later levels and albums represent a much harder challenge.
Each album is progressively harder than the last, so is each song, with the first song of an album the easiest and the last taking everything you’ve learnt about the new enemies and placing it all into a big boss fight against something which utilizes various little minions. Thankfully, you would have spent your time getting used to these over the preceding levels. Fighting enemies is done by the use of a guitar – as you’d expect – with four different firing modes available depending on how fast you strum and whereabouts you have your hands placed on the neck of the guitar.
This is really where my gripe with the game comes in. You see, Virtual Air Guitar Company are well known for producing great Kinect titles, with some even providing me enough game time to make my trust in the Kinect feel warranted, but Air Guitar Warrior seems to have an issue that I never expected to see – Kinect recognition. During my time I have found myself failing several times over on certain levels simply due to the failure of Kinect to recognise the actions I was performing. When playing, enemies come across the screen from left to right, with you atop your transportation – which includes things such as a flying laser mounted shark amongst others – and it is your goal to destroy each enemy before they pass you or attack you. Each attack does damage to your health bar, but killing enemies refills a small amount, meaning those who hit most enemies will find themselves progressing nicely.
However, the issue is with the aiming, mostly with the enemies that get too close. This isn’t an issue in early levels, but some of the harder outings see you needing to aim directly above you when hordes of enemies are on screen. It is here, with me aiming directly above or below, that causes the on-screen guitar to get a mind of its own before spinning in all directions, not recognising my actions for long enough to see death hit home. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-time thing and in later levels, with more enemies and a harder difficulty, I was starting to see this happen more and more.
As you would no doubt expect, this brought a huge dampener to the game. Without it, Air Guitar Warrior for Kinect could be seen as another smashing title for the Kinect library, and I found myself having a blast. But without the guitar pointing in the right direction, the experience is quite obviously soured.
That said, Air Guitar Warrior is naturally quite a challenging game anyway. The first few albums will see you breeze through, unlocking new guitars each with their own style of shooting, and feeling like the King of Rock, but once you reach the fourth album onwards, things can get tricky and those not concentrating will quickly find themselves back to the retry screen.
In regards the gameplay, and one thing that must be praised is the way in which players are required to shoot and conserve ammunition. There are four firing modes in the game; a basic single bullet shot, dual bullet shot, and then three and four shots, all of which increase in size with an arc-like line across the screen. However, whilst it may seem easy to stick to one as they are all powerful in their own way, continuing too long with one rate of fire will find your ammo depleted and a message informing you to change your shooting style. This means either strumming faster or slower in order to change firing rates and is a really ingenious way of bringing a small sense of reality to what it’s really like to play a guitar. That really impressed me, maybe even a little more than it should have based on just how well it worked. That mechanic is pretty much the standard across the vast majority of what Air Guitar Warrior brings, but the Boss levels however throw this method out the window due to their naturally hard nature, giving you freedom to fire however you want, for as long as you want.
Another thing that I feel is a nice touch is in the Victory Pose after the completion of each album. Treated as a kind of congratulations screen, the Victory Pose gives you a matter of seconds to perform a pose for a picture that will then feature on the cover of the completed album for the rest of the game. This makes for some amusing pictures which now see my dog the star of the second album cover. I could of course always re-do the boss battle, which in turn would grant some quick XP and the chance to re-do those cringeworthy poses for the ultimate embarrassment at family get togethers, but where’s the fun in that? Of course none of this is really needed, but given the fun nature of the game it is a nice touch and one that certainly leads to a replayability option – even if only to hide the embarrassing pictures.
For those that possess the skills to finish all the albums and tracks (and you’ll need some serious skills for that to happen), then there is an unlockable Expert difficulty mode. But the man who can get that far is certainly a better one than me as the difficulty spike in Air Guitar Warrior really is quite intense after a while. Combine that with awkward controls once you let enemies get too close, if your lack of skill doesn’t let you down, the game’s ability to recognise your attempts to pull off that crazy whammy certainly will.
It is always an exciting time to see a new release from the guys at the Virtual Air Guitar Company, but Air Guitar Warrior for Kinect isn’t one that I find myself as happy to recommend as I had hoped. With a shocking motion detection system that messes with the controls when aiming directly above or below, and an incredibly tough difficulty curve for the later levels, the early fun never really continues. Whilst the issues with this title are certainly things that could be fixed with updates, the game as it stands isn’t really one for anyone other than those looking for a casual party game to get the conversation started.