The days of playing make-believe may have been over since we left the school yard, but Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure takes hold of our imagination and lets us return to a brighter, well-manicured, and (unquestionably sanitary) Pixar-approved playground. Surrounded by other virtual kids, you can explore Pixar Park at your leisure and jump into any of the five featured Pixar films including Cars, Ratatouille, Toy Story, Up, and The Incredibles. While it's clear that this cooperative adventure game is targeted at a younger audience, parents who may be buying it for young children will be impressed with high production values that Disney and Pixar are known for in their films. Like the movies, Kinect Rush can appeal to kids of all ages and it shouldn't be dismissed as a cheap movie tie-in, as the game is a wonderful collection of mini-story missions set in the Pixar universe.
Instead of using your Xbox Live avatar, Kinect Rush lets you create your own character by scanning your face and body. Choices are limited, but you'll end up transforming into a super hero, adventurer, car, rat, or toy soon enough, so the lack of customization doesn't really matter. Pixar Park is your hub, teeming with children eager to play as cars or super heroes, depending on which section of the park you run toward. It's divvied up into five themed sections to represent each movie - three episodes each. Whether you're racing through the dazzling neon-lit city of Tokyo or trying to help Mr. Pricklepants at Bonnie's daycare, each episode offers a chance to explore the lovingly crafted worlds that developer Asobo has faithfully recreated. Majestic waterfalls and lush jungles are your backdrop as you team up with Up's wilderness explorer Russell to save Kevin's babies. And just when you think you're done with all the episodes, the points that you earn as you play through these areas will unlock new abilities and goals so that you can replay them again, but with a few gameplay perks.
Conveniently designed to wear out hyper-active children, Kinect Rush also lets you take it easy if you want to. You can raise your feet and swing your arms wildly to run on the spot, or just swing your arms casually to move. Either way, the game adjusts to your movements and handles well in most situations, especially in the racing levels. The only time we encountered any real problems was when we were playing cooperatively with another player, and sometimes our partner's arms were getting in the way, making it a bit difficult to keep control of our character when running. Because there are no penalties, only points are at stake here. Even if you find yourself stuck in an area or you're too tired to make another jump, eventually the game will ask if you want to skip the challenge and move on. The no-fail approach means that you only have to focus on enjoying the level, and points can always be earned by playing the levels again to unlock special items.
It's a shame that there are so few episodes in the game, fifteen total, each lasting anywhere between five to ten minutes at most. But the time you do spend with Buzz, Holley Shiftwell, or Remi is worth it, especially when you get to dash across the white-linen tables at Gusteau's or throw giant tomatoes at the menacing Chef Skinner. The attention to detail and characters in each area is fantastic, making you truly feel like you're running through the animated film. Kinect Rush also assumes you've seen the movies, and makes no attempt to bring you up to speed. While Tom Hanks may not be reprising his role as Woody here, the stand-ins do a great job to bring the characters to life alongside the original voice actors who have returned. What helps enhance the Pixar vibe and atmosphere is the upbeat and playful music, which is entirely original but captures the feel of each film.
Playtime does have to come to an end at some point, whether it's because you're tired or because there aren't any new episodes left to play. Kinect Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure is a great game to play with a friend or sibling, and it's as easy as walking in and out of the camera's view. But what the game excels at is that it harnesses the charm, personality, and high-quality visuals that the property is known for. It's an excellent addition to the Kinect library of family-friend games.