Fruit Ninja Kinect broke the seal on XBLA Kinect games and did so in fabulous fashion. It single-handedly (well, double-handedly actually) convinced me that thereís a bright future in bite-sized downloadable Kinect games. And so it was with great anticipation that I moved my ottoman out of the center of my living room when I saw that Hole in the Wall had come to Xbox Live Arcade. A TV game show about people squeezing through different shapes in an oncoming wall seems like a perfect fit for downloadable Kinect-foolery, but does this home version make for a wonderful party gift?
I really wanted this to be good, so Iím bummed to tell you Hole in the Wall leaves a fun-shaped hole in my heart. The core concept is implemented just well enough to squeeze some enjoyment through, but itís short-lived and underwhelming. To begin with, the human-shaped holes are just not large enough for most humans. At 5í11Ē Iím fairly standard height and Iím also on the skinny side compared to most. Yet most of the time, my on-screen shadow had a difficult time not spilling outside the silhouetted cutouts. I get that part of the challenge is making the holes difficult to fit through, but some fun is sucked out of the yoga on speed-type posing as itís clear that Iím not actually fitting through the holes. My wife, who is much smaller than I am wasnít having as many issues, which I guess holds true to the science of squeezing a person through an opening. Regardless of my girth, I still passed levels as the game uses some questionable judgment to determine if youíve met the required shape. The better the game thinks you conform to the shape, the faster the success meter fills and the more points you get. Donít fill the meter in time and you fail that wall. Fail three walls in any of the four rounds that comprise the gameís ten themed episodes and itís game over. This can get pretty frustrating if you run into some bad luck in the final round of show and have to play all four rounds again Ė which is precisely why I have yet to make it past the third episode.
The lackluster user interface has some curious quirks and Kinect-oddities, particularly when playing multiplayer. After each round, the game returns to a menu where you can select to move onto the next round, look at snapshots it took of you contorting from the previous round, etc. Thatís all fine, but the game kept randomly picking which one of us was controlling the menu rather than just sticking with a single player for the duration. Thatís really annoying. The game also liked to lose track of which profile I was logged into even when I was playing solo and no one else was in the room. Should someone else enter the room while youíre playing, the game reacts unfriendly too. When playing a single player game, my wife walked in and sat down on the couch behind me. Most Kinect titles handle this kind of normal living room activity without any issue, but Hole in the Wall got completely discombobulated and started saying that I wasnít fitting through holes that I clearly was due to it picking up my wifeís movements. Three failed walls later and it was time to start that episode from scratch. Not cool.
Itís such a shame that Hole in the Wall hasnít been given the proper honing necessary to succeed. When it works, the basic game of freezing in stupid poses and scurrying about your living room to get to the next stupid pose is genuinely fun Ė particularly with a partner. If the accuracy was cleaned up, the game didnít have so many interface issues, and the overall presentation didnít feel so budget, I think this would be a good party game. In its current state, however, pulling out Hole in the Wall could be good way of getting people to head out the door-shaped hole in your house.
Outstanding | Very Good | Fair | Poor | Awful
Recommended Buy Price: $5.00
Current MSRP: $10.00
Hole in the Wall was provided for review by Microsoft. I played the game for two hours accumulating 5 out of 12 Achievements for 45 GamerScore. In addition to the episodes there is a survival mode that bombards you with an endless stream of walls. Hole in the Wall is exclusive to Xbox 360 Kinect.