Review: Doodle Jump for Kinect

DoodleJump_for_Kinect

When NBA star Kevin Durant is talking about you in a national cell phone ad campaign, you know you’ve earned a place in both the national pop-culture consciousness and the App Store Hall of Fame. Given the breezy and ubiquitous success of Doodle Jump—original developer Lima Sky estimates more than 150 million downloads across all the mobile platforms on which it’s currently available–it’s not exactly surprising that Microsoft decided to port it to Xbox Live Arcade and turn it into a Kinect offering. Hell, it’s already an arcade staple among the date-night crowd at your local Dave and Buster’s.

It’s also not surprising that, like about 80 percent of the Kinect library, the results of Doodle Jump for Kinect get worse the more complicated things become. Instead of tilting the accelerometer on your mobile device, you’re shifting your legs and hips in your (hopefully expansive) rec room to execute the Doodler’s inexorable platform climb. The aw-yeah vertical boosts (jetpacks, wings, etc.) are activated by flapping/flailing your arms, jumping and crouching, and you pea-shoot those hand-drawn enemies by aiming your arms. So simple in concept, so problematic in execution.

The issue, of course, is the same as it ever was—sometimes the Kinect’s motion detection just isn’t what it needs to be. It’s obvious the developers recognized and accounted for this to the degree they could. For one, the collision detection’s fairly forgiving—your wild lurch to the left tends to end up with the Doodler float-landing on a platform rather than flailing at empty air. The bigger concession couldn’t be more welcome—checkpoints. You’ll hit one a few times in each of the 30 levels, ensuring that your frustration at jumping straight into an enemy projectile mere inches from the finish line won’t send you back to the start. Or stalking from the room.

Well, at least not right away. These concessions lose their import once the gameplay steepens, and enemies are unexpectedly flying out of cannons, platforms are crumbling everywhere and you’re battling powerful bosses. Imprecise controls mean you’ll be spending huge amounts of time trying to execute that final tricky jump sequence, as the fun falls out of the experience faster than the Doodler after a badly missed jump.

Just like the mobile version, Doodle Jump for Kinect is designed for short play sessions. Unlike the mobile version, there’s a distressing dearth of alternate play modes—oddly, none of the fun World Cup or holiday themes made the, um, jump here. Worst of all, there’s no multiplayer option, a feature that made the best mobile app-to-Kinect port, Fruit Ninja, an absolute must-have. Yes, I get that it would have been tricky to execute, but a game like this cries out for something more than just watching your pals chase high scores.

The Doodler’s Kinect price tag is only $5, which seems reasonable for the amount of content and drawbacks you’re getting. Take the leap if you’re inclined, but be aware that your impulse buy comes with some sizable shortcomings.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Signature art style looks great on a larger screen
+ Checkpoints!

Cons:
– Motion detection’s erratic, making brutal obstacles nigh impassable
– Limited amount of content
– No multiplayer?

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade for Xbox 360 (requires Kinect)
Publisher: D3Publisher
Developer: Smoking Gun Interactive/Lima Sky
Release Date: 6/28/2013
Genre: Platformer
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.