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Kinect Sports Rivals makes the jump, roll and kick to next gen

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If you want to look like an absolute plonker, you can do a lot worse than volunteer to play Kinect Sports Rivals.

The climbing game, for starters, allows you to re-enact the physical contortions of a frantically excitable frog, pinned by its torso to a cork-board. The soccer game is a fair approximation of some central European folk-dance, which traces its origins to the gleeful kicking of elderly boars. When you play bowling you look, absurdly, like someone who actually plays bowling.

And yet, there is a fair chance that you'll be playing this game, at some point. Possibly in the company of children, for whom the spectacle of adults making fools of themselves is a special delight.

Kinect Sports Rivals from Rare is the next-gen version of the Kinect Sports series, which sold 8.5 million copies in its Xbox 360 / original Kinect incarnation. The Xbox One version is more colorful, certainly. It allows for a greater range of movements, including wrist flicks which add, in theory, an extra dimension to the business of throwing, hitting and kicking imaginary spherical objects.

It is still not quite the holographic sci-fi sports simulation that its advertising campaign is sure to conjure. When your entire body is being drafted into fantasy, as opposed to merely your thumbs, the suspension of disbelief takes some extra lifting.

But the game does what it states on the packaging. Your body moves in certain ways and, roughly speaking, these are translated onto the screen.

Roadshow_tennis

Tennis offers the best illustration. Even during my short demonstration, I was able to land a few shots that included spin and lob, achieved through the natural turn of a wrist, although I also failed to pull these off on an equal number of attempts.

Bowling asks that you twist your arm slightly in order to get that all-important spin on the ball. The watchful camera is looking for subtleties in movement that can be converted into strikes that yield cool power-up bonuses.

With soccer, I was dealing with the ball at ground and at knee level, attempting to hit it on the move. The words, 'soccer - this is fun' appear in my reporter's notebook in big letters, but now, a week or so after the event, I'm not clear on the precise emotional location of this jollity. Probably, unlike my recent real life soccer attempts, because I managed to avoid a trip to the local hospital.

Jet-ski, demonstrated earlier in the year and available now as a demo, is extremely challenging, its color-splashed levels heaving with stuff to avoid and bonuses to grab.

Climbing surprised me by being a ton of fun. In two-player mode, you and the other guy are trying to grab each other as you both scale the wall, making use of angular grabs and jumps. Its not clear how much longevity this pleasure can offer, but these games tend to be all about short bursts of fun in party settings, rather than dogged Titanfall-style duels to the death. The shooting part of the game was not available during my demo.

Roadshow_soccer

The game is set up to scan your face and body into the game. Frankly, the Kinect Sports Rivals version of me looks like a slightly disreputable magician who lives alone with his elderly, emotionally demanding mother. I hope you fare better.

There are tons of costumes, power-ups and gizmos inserted into each activity, as well as 'drivatars' so you can play against absent friends, displaying their own creepy alter-egos as well as their own annoying quirks and incompetencies.

Kinect Sports Rivals, due out on April 8, proves that Kinect technology has improved greatly since it was introduced back in 2010. But it remains a fledgling user interface, a fun diversion, and not, as Microsoft would have us believe, an exact science.