This week's Video Game Roundup takes a look at the new season of Kinect Sports, where tennis, golf and darts (yes, that's a sport!) rule the day. Then it's off to the pitch with FIFA 12, the latest in the world's best-selling video game. Lastly, we use our brain muscle (that's a muscle, right?) in the brand new Nintendo DS game Professor Layton and the Last Specter.
Kinect Sports: Season Two
Kinect Sports holds a special place in my heart as the best reason to own the Kinect for Xbox 360. Sports like bowling, boxing and table tennis were faithfully reproduced, but given a fun, colorful style that made it addictive to play. Season Two offers up the same mix of tried-and-true gameplay with stylish visuals and a great soundtrack, this time for sports like baseball, football and tennis.
Thankfully, Rare and Big Park, the two developers of the game, didn't try to get cute with the gameplay. It is as fun as ever, and the sports lineup is pretty great. Football consists of four downs of passes and run plays, while baseball has you swinging for the fences. Even lesser-known sports like darts are made extremely fun thanks to the tracking technology of the Kinect. Works just as good as the original, if not better.
Our personal favorite has to be golf, and you have the option to play in one, three or nine-hole tournaments against competitors of different skill levels. Put your hand up before taking your shot and your player will step back to allow a few practice swings. Put your hand to your brow like you're shading your eyes and the camera will pan back and show the entire hole. When you're putting, feel free to crouch down and get a closer look at the ball and its potential path. These little touches both improve the gameplay and bring you further into the experience.
Just like the first one, there are special modes for many of the sports as well to keep things fresh. Golf has you pitching to a number of random targets in the ocean, while baseball has a home run derby. And just try to play only one session of Balloon Pop Darts--addictive!
When you're done just competing with the computer, you can always challenge a friend, either someone in the same room or over Xbox Live. You can even send challenges to other gamers as a way to play against others without having them online. Send a challenge and the next time your friend logs on, they'll have your new high score to contend with. Pretty cool!
Kinect Sports: Season Two is most definitely a must-have, and adds onto the Kinect Sports series with some very fun games and new modes of play. While we have no idea what they'll bring out for Season Three (curling, anyone?), we're just happy to have yet another championship season on Kinect.
Another year, another version of FIFA, but that's a-okay with the millions of soccer fans who make up FIFA Nation. FIFA is consistently one of the best selling games on the entire planet, and it's easy to see why. Take the world's most popular sport and give it the works: include every big league and team you can think of, give it a broadcast-quality presentation, and keep the gameplay tight so it feels like you're running the pitch. FIFA 12 continues the tradition of great soccer gaming, and adds a few new moves to the mix.
If you're unfamiliar with the FIFA series, it's pretty simple to get started. Use your controller to pass, lob and through-pass (which means passing slightly ahead of the recipient) to get as close to goal before trying to shoot for the net. Sounds simple enough, but when you look at some of the more advanced techniques, you'll have a lot of weapons at your disposal.
For example, defensive checking is an integral part of the game, and holding down the A button (on Xbox 360) marks your defender to the ball carrier (in other words, he ain't going anywhere!). If the player with the ball is sprinting in front of you, now you can press the B button to give him a little tug on his shoulder or jersey to slow him down. These and other advance moves make FIFA 12 a game that, while easy to pick up and play, will take months to master.
Thankfully, for gamers without Pele aspirations, the game offers a lot of fun with varying difficulty levels and modes of play. You can create your own baseball card-style Ultimate Team, play coach to a championship contender, or even choose to play as a single player throughout their entire career. Add to that robust online play on both Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, and you have a very compelling experience.
While it's not the easiest game to get into if you're a rookie (the options are plentiful but could be daunting), FIFA 12 is without a doubt the best game of the series. Its already racking up record sales as football fans of all sizes get their kick on, and if you have even just a little bit of soccer in your heart, you have to pick up FIFA 12.
Professor Layton and the Last Specter
Professor Layton and the Last Specter is a wonderful game that fits like a comfy pair of slippers. Longtime fans will find everything the franchise is known for, including a wide array of eccentric characters, a satisfying mix of puzzles, animated cut scenes and a gripping story. Newcomers, meanwhile, are in for a real treat, since this is technically the first game in the series. In other words, the perfect place to start.
There's no use dancing around it. The Last Specter plays like every Professor Layton that has come before it. You'll wander through a town under siege (in this case, the foggy burg of Misthallery), poking various objects in search of hint coins, gathering clues and meeting townsfolk that'll gladly provide valuable bits of information, so long as you solve mind bending puzzles.
Speaking of which, prepare to scratch your head for hours trying to figure out a variety of challenges, from ferrying animals across a river to packing a woman's cart so that no objects overlap.
That said, some of these puzzles cover familiar ground from past Layton games, so expect new takes on classic brain teasers, though the talented developers at Level-5 did manage to shove a bunch of new challenges into the game, forcing you to stress over making the tough decision of spending hint coins or working things out on your own.
The story, meanwhile, is vintage Layton. In this case, one of the professor's good friends, Clark Triton, begs him to unravel the mystery behind a strange giant that's been tearing the city to pieces. Told through beautifully animated scenes (though, to be fair, the DS screens show their age), you'll thoroughly enjoy each twist and turn, from Layton running into his assistant, Emmy, to his trusty and more well known sidekick, Luke.
In addition, you also have a bonus game, the 100 plus hour RPG, London Life, which sort of works like Animal Crossing in that you wander through a fictitious city completing tasks for its residents, decorating your home and trying on different outfits. While not particularly gripping (too many fetch quests), the charming 8-bit graphics (think Mother 3, the Japan-only Game Boy Advance RPG) and world of Layton should keep you glued for a little while.
If it doesn't, you'll find three addictive mini games stashed away in Layton's trunk, each of which offers a completely unique experience; definitely make a note to play Toy Train.
All told, Professor Layton and the Last Specter is another fine addition to the celebrated series and one of the last quality puzzle games for Nintendo's DS. Don't miss it.
Originally published on Modojo by Chris Buffa