Review: Leedmees

Leedmees.jpg

Ah, to be a Leedmee. To be completely firm of purpose, striding ever forward with no regard whatsoever to alternative approaches or obstacles that prevent you from reaching your goal.

Sounds a little like most of our modern politicians, actually.

Unfortunately, it’s not your job to be one of the cute little creatures who star in Leedmees, Konami’s new downloadable game for Kinect. Instead, you’re charged with contorting your body into yoga–esque pretzels so your on-screen avatar can help the Leedmees—who look an awful lot like teeny glowing versions of Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet, by the way—cross the screen from one ever-shifting colorful portal to another.

It’s no surprise to learn this is far easier said than done. Just like the parades of Lemmings and mini-Marios that have marched before them, the Leedmees aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. They pop out and begin moving inexorably forward, even if walls and/or certain death lurk just steps away. Which is why you need to create bridges between gaps, lift them up and carry them or slide or brush deadly obstacles out of their way.

In theory, Leedmees ought to be the perfect realization of Kinect’s body- and motion-recognition system—you raise or wave your arm or leg, and your colorful, spindly stick figure avatar does the same. In practice, the problems crop up immediately, beginning with the first time you’re asked to bend down and grab a Leedmee off the floor. Your avatar stutters and flickers as the camera tries to track your movement. As the levels increase in difficulty, corralling the high-stepping Leedmees demands a precision the camera isn’t always able to match.

This conflates in sometimes ugly fashion with problem two: The Leedmees are more fragile than the European economy and Jay Cutler’s ego. It’s common to collect one on your arm, only to send it sailing to its untimely doom seconds later because you shifted your arm as you tried to move in the other direction. (Dropping the little glowies and stepping on them is also common.) Given that the level crashes if you lose too many Leedmees, you can see how the frustration can reach epic levels rather quickly. The bar to move on to the next level is set fairly low—you only need to save half the allotted Leedmees—but sometimes, even this seems daunting. Level perfectionists and achievement hunters are a lead-pipe lock to go Lewis Black on Leedmees.

The multiplayer co-op mode is where Leedmees comes closest to realizing its full/fun potential. Here, you’re not just working with a partner to create joint body-part bridges, but you’re also positioning your bodies to do things like making (and holding) electrical circuits that will stop sets of hammer spikes from pummeling your little charges into Leedmees ketchup. Here, Leedmees becomes like a vertical/virtual game of Twister, as entertaining to watch as it is to play—even with the annoying camera issues. Given this, it’s a shame the balance between co-op (12) and single-player (50) levels is so out of whack.

Give the flashes of potential it shows, it’s hard to dismiss Leedmees out of, um, hand. Given the camera-recognition issues, it’s hard to give it an unqualified arms up, either.

TryIt.jpg

Pros:
+ When the camera’s working, Leedmees nails the Kinect experience
+ Colorful presentation is like a child’s art project come to life
+ Multiplayer/co-op levels are like an awesome game of virtual Twister

Cons:
- Kinect camera can’t always track your movements
- Leedmees far, far too fragile and easy to kill
- Way too few multiplayer levels

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade for Xbox 360 Kinect
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Release Date: 9/7/2011
Genre: Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2 (offline)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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.