Based on the glut of Kinect games that have
players wielding invisible swords or swinging imagined golf clubs, it often
seems like the potential-packed technology’s creative pool has prematurely run
dry. That’s why it’s so refreshing when we experience a Kinect-enabled entry
that utilizes the controller-free hardware in ways we never expected. Leedmees, an
original XBLA entry from Konami, fits that bill perfectly.
A Lemmings-like puzzler, Leedmees is not a Kinect
title you can lazily play from the couch. Requiring full-body participation,
the title turns players into a movable on-screen stick-person that must guide
the titular little guys to safety; so, essentially, you become a moving part of
the level. Unlike Lemmings, though, Leedmees grants you zero control over your
minions. Instead, all navigation is handled by moving your arms and legs.
The Leedmees enter a stage from a glowing portal
on one side of the screen and mindlessly march--much like the mini Marios from
the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series--toward an exit portal on the other side of
the level. In early stages, players’ arms work as a bridge, allowing the
Leedmees passage to their destination. Of course, things get tricky when your
limbs must be raised or lowered slightly to keep the drone-like dudes on the
straight and narrow. The challenge ramps further when they must be propelled to
the exit with a quick flick of the arm. Executing this boost move gave us a
good feel for the responsiveness of the mechanics, as reacting too forcefully
sent the poor little suckers flying off screen or reduced them to confetti.
Later stages add even more challenges and
obstacles. We experienced moving ceiling spikes in one level, and another whose
floor was completely covered in Leedmee-skewering threats. There are also
ghosts to be punchd, stars to collect, and puzzles to trigger. We got to
navigate movable platforms by making our stick-guy pound on columns, although
we later discovered this task could have also been accomplished with our feet.
Despite the game’s unassuming aesthetic, the experience can get pretty intense,
especially when you’re managing movable objects, avoiding ghosts, and trying to
keep your Leedmees from being impaled.
That said, you’re allowed to sacrifice a few
every stage, so losing a Leedmee--while a bit heartbreaking--does not equal
instant failure. Players are tasked with getting a set amount through the exit
portal within a time limit, but plenty of onscreen indicators track their
progress so they can concentrate on the limb-intensive action. The final game
will include over 30 increasingly challenging levels as well as a few dedicated
to cooperative play. We didn’t experience any of the latter, which have two
player characters working together simultaneously, but injecting any kind of
teamwork into this crazy concept can only be a good thing.
Beyond the neat gesture-based gameplay, the title
packs plenty of personality. Leedmees walking passed your feet can be
accidentally stepped on, reaching a hand out to one will prompt it to leap into
your avatar’s palm, and just seeing your moves mimicked by a character that looks like he (she?) may
have just jumped out of a hangman game is entertaining. Additionally, the
dream-like backgrounds evoke everything from Tim Burton’s work to ancient cave
drawings. From its imaginative gameplay to its charming presentation, Leedmees
looks like a fun-for-the-whole-family entry worth getting off the couch for.
Aug 25, 2011