You may remember Double Fine Happy Action Theater, which I reviewed about a year ago and found to be an odd game that revelled in its experiments and originality. There was certainly room for improvement, though, and to this end Double Fine have released a sequel: Kinect Party. And they've done so in a way that makes the old game completely redundant.
Kinect Party is a free game that comes with a handful of minigames. These minigames aren't worth much on their own; they're rather simple and shallow. The concept here is that you are taken through these minigames, playing each one in turn for no more than a few minutes. You can choose to play individual games for longer, but the game rotation is important for keeping things interesting. So how do you add more games to keep repetition from setting in? Well if you already own Double Fine Happy Action Theater then all of the minigames from it will already have been added to Kinect Party, boosting the total amount of minigames to 21, but you'll still want something new. Fortunately an additional 14 minigames are up for sale, which brings the overall total to 35.
It's a special kind of science!
The game is set up as a TV experience; you're a channel surfer and each minigame is a channel of its own. Regardless of whether you own Double Fine Happy Action Theater or not, you can buy additional channels for 80 Microsoft points a piece. Owners of Double Fint Happy Action Theater can buy all of the channels they don't have for a flat 400 points, while those who don't own it can buy all of the channels for a total of 800 points. I bemoaned the pricing when I originally reviewed Double Fine Happy Action Theater, and this is definitely a turn for the better. But Kinect Party also brings with it other improvements that make the offer a bit more tempting. For example, it's now easy to take pictures of what you're doing and share the craziness with your friends on Facebook. There's also a photo editor for those who are so inclined to play around with their pictures, but it's rather rudimentary. The voice commands are also a nice addition, making it easier to navigate the channels than before.
Despite these changes, my original Double Fine Happy Action Theater review remains fairly accurate, and you should read it if you're looking for more detail on how the game actually plays. In summary, there's no real structure or rules to the game, instead it relies on your own playfulness to bring the fun. If you go along with it, the game is indeed fun on the first playthrough, poking at your inner child, and even more so when playing with the right company. You can play up to six players at once, but unfortunately any more than four will be too cramped for your playing space; Kinect simply can't detect enough space to keep six players actively engaged without someone losing a tooth or an eye.
WARNING: Represents actual game footage.
The new minigames are almost indistinguishable from the old ones, though you can tell that the team have improved their technology and have become better at using it as well, making the new minigames a little bit more refined. The most noticable difference is that the game now includes costumes for you to wear while you're playing some of the minigames, allowing you to really bring out your inner pirate, dragon, or fairy. And like its predecessor, Kinect Party presents itself well, though it's more about getting the job done than being technically impressive, and that goes for both the graphical aspects and the sound design. The augmented reality remains impressive, however.
Kinect Party is, in essence, Double Fine Happy Action Theater version 1.1, with around double the content and a better pricing model. It remains a fun distraction for anyone with an eye for experiments and originality, though ultimately it's perhaps best suited for people whose inner child is just under the surface. Or, you know, actual children.
This review is based on a digital copy of Kinect Party and DLC for the Xbox 360, provided by the publisher.