Going into the review of the Xbox 360 version of Yoostar 2 In the Movies, I was pretty optimistic, as I enjoy breaking out movie and TV show quotes (That’s what she said!) just as much as the next guy. However, as I booted up the game, waited for the obligatory update and started my initial navigation, I knew I was going to be in for a long review process.
Unfortunately, I hate to get into where a game lacks right out of the gate, but the folks at Blitz Games leave me no choice. The Yoostar 2 premise was designed to be simple. You were supposed to be able to choose a movie scene, select the lines you want, rehearse them, act them out while being recorded and see how well you stack up against the original. Unfortunately, that idea seemed to die on the development floor, as there is nothing simple about playing Yoostar 2.
With all Kinect games, the gesture controls are used as the primary navigation tool to move through the title like you would with the game controller. In this case, the Yoostar 2 menu system is an absolute mess. It takes exceptionally long to scroll through choices and the “snap to” system constantly is grabbing anything and everything as you navigate around the screen. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but it loads the choice so fast, I was getting almost as many incorrect selections as ones I wanted at one point. Once I developed a bit of a rhythm with my navigation path and avoided certain areas of the on-screen menu, I was able to drastically reduce these incorrect choices, but you would think this wouldn’t be an issue even to begin with. While getting to where and what I wanted was hard enough, after I got there, it was even worse.
Once I was able to track down a clip and start playing, I ran into more technical issues than I care to remember just to say “I’ll Be Back” in the famous Terminator scene. The biggest challenges I had with the game (after navigating through to the movie clip I wanted) was trying to figure out when I was to act out my scene and getting the game to recognize, record and playback my voice. Incidentally, that is just about everything that you are supposed to do in the game.
I have to be honest; I figured playing Yoostar 2 would be a breeze where I could just plug in the disk and learn to play the game on the fly. I was quite clearly mistaken, as not only did I have to go read the booklet, I was quite shocked at what I found. The instructions and tutorial are simply terrible and do not help you understand when you are to speak, how to act or provide any useful knowledge that will actually help you play or get better at the game. The developer basically leaves you to your own vices and I think “hopes” you will be able to figure it out. In fact, two pages of the instruction booklet describe the following steps with a paragraph and screenshot: Searching, Rehearse, Choose Your Role, Quick Frame Up, Play Back Screen and Final Results Screen. Notice anything missing...like maybe ACTING OUT THE SCENE? There isn’t any mention of acting out the scene, no screenshot and no instructions on when and how you should deliver your lines to score the best points. There isn’t even a section that describes the complex “scoring” method the game uses. I guess you just wing it and pray.
While I thought the failure to explain how to play the game must be the ultimate fail point, I couldn’t have been more wrong. For this game to work, you actually have to speak and have the Kinect microphones record your voice (among other things, more on that later) to match the timing of the scene. You also are supposed to hear that recording and see how you did after you complete the scene. However, Yoostar 2 seems to have a few technical issues with making this happen. I spent over two hours that I should have been playing the game trying to get it to recognize my voice and then play it back so I could hear myself in the clip. I then spent another couple of hours researching online at YouTube and different forums looking for videos or instructions of how to make it work. Until that point, I only had managed a few times to get the game to “hear” me, but after reading online that having a controller connected while playing the game messes with the recording. It would have been nice to get a warning or have in the instructions that this could cause a conflict, but I never found anything mentioning it on an official Yoostar site or documentation. Although I solved that one issue, I still to this day cannot “hear” myself in the playback of the clip. Before I get lots of hate messages, I went through every step involving setup of the Kinect camera, the security settings, and the console audio playback options and came up empty. Every other game and application that uses the Kinect camera and microphones can pick up my voice, but not Yoostar 2.
If you somehow manage to get through the minefield of technical issues, you still have to deal with the Lighting and Framing Up issues. Each is needed to be perfect to maximize your score, yet neither is attainable unless you have perfect light and a perfect Kinect camera placement in your gaming area. My area is pretty well lit, yet the game still thought it was too dark. I think the game requires professional stage lights or something, because I even brought in a pair of halogen shop lights and it still didn’t like the way the room was lit. As for camera placement, it is your responsibility to fit yourself into the model on-screen, and it changes from scene to scene. So you may find yourself at five feet away one time, and 12 feet the next. You can imagine that anyone in a tight space that does not have lots of area to move around could be in trouble, and you would be right. On top of that, depending on where you Kinect camera is placed, you could have issues with how you fit into the screen model while trying to read the script and hit your cues. Mine is about at waist level, so in the playback, I was always looking up and away in the scene.
After experiencing all the issues I did, I now know why there is a whole page dedicated to troubleshooting. Obviously the developers knew going in that there would be problems, so why even release the game in this state? I can’t fathom why Yoostar 2 wasn’t programmed to automatically identify your current Kinect and console setting and offer to change them to those needed to play it properly. It is silly to expect someone to have to adjust out of their chosen Kinect camera and console settings just to play this one title. If there is a next version, maybe the developer will take the time to do setting while in the game that then revert back to the default once you leave it.
Even with all the technical issues and poor development choices, Yoostar 2 still manages to screw the pooch on one more item…the graphics. The main gameplay consists primarily of clips from different years and a menu system that is not graphics heavy by any means. Because of this, the graphics will vary based on the age of the movie. Something from “300 will be much cleaner and prettier than an older clip from “The Terminator”. This in itself isn’t an issue, but once your in-game creation hits the screen, you may want to hit delete and fast as you can. Despite the Kinect sporting the most advanced HD camera of any console, the image that translates on screen is grainy with jagged lines around the edges that looks like something a 10-year old would put together in Paint instead of Photoshop while trying to put their head on a different body. You can imagine my disappointment of seeing such a crappy image on the screen with all the effort I spent trying to get the game to work.
After the countless hours of frustration I spent trying to play this game, I have come to the conclusion that the developer rushed through the title without fully understanding the technology that is was being developed for. The Kinect camera works just fine on almost every game I have played using it. Yet during the development of Yoostar 2, Blitz Games has somehow managed to find every flaw that the Kinect system has and make it integral to the gameplay. I hope that if they decide to bring out another installment of the game, they take the time to understand how to better use hand gestures for the menus and how to use the HD camera to put a high-resolution image onto the screen.
The bottom line is that Yoostar 2 has a sound premise, but severely lacks in execution. The game had the potential to be a huge party hit by bringing out our penchant for quoting movies and dropping us in the heart of the action. Instead, what we get is a failed attempt to develop a title for a new technology that appears to have been rushed to market. As the saying goes, “you can’t fix stupid”, and Yoostar 2 seems to only work properly in a perfect gaming environment that the developers somehow believe is in millions of homes worldwide, which is just plain stupid.