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Game Review

The popular ABC game show  Wipeout reportedly gives contestants a 50-page release form to sign before they run out to be heartily pummeled by something that amounts to a crazy, wet and wild carnival ride—without seatbelts. And if you've watched this human-bashing and -catapulting show, you understand why the attorneys are so cautious.

But for those who'd like to get in on the action while avoiding all the paperwork and chiropractor bills, this is your chance. ABC has collaborated with Activision to create an Xbox 360 Kinect game called Wipeout: In the Zone.

Two things should be stressed about this game, though, right at the top: 1) This is a Kinect-required game. Only an Xbox 360 equipped with that sensor strip device can throw the running, jumping and somersaulting into gear. 2) This is one of the purest forms of a casual party game out there.

And that latter bit equates to both plusses and minuses.

Follow the Bouncing Ball
Like the frenetic and completely mindless TV show, there's really nothing deep or strategic about this game. You simply run in place, squat, jump and wave your arms around as a means to get your avatar moving through the gauntlet in the shortest time possible. The obstacles to that, of course, are obstacles. A giant (cushioned) hammer behind door No. 3. Landing headfirst on that enormous rubber ball. Taking a jab in the gut from the sucker punch wall. All such failures result in a mash-up with a muddy moat, but all you have to do is rub off the muck and do it again, hoping to shave a second or two from each attempt.

That can be fun if you're in the right frame of mind.

On the other hand, the weakness of this kind of straightforward party fare is that you're not going to get much out of it by playing alone—except maybe a little sweaty. When I was jumping and squatting my way through single mode, my thoughts were more focused on an old football-tweaked stiff knee then on the pleasure of the play. The real joy wasn't tapped until I gathered up the family for some semi-forced frivolity.

Here's Mud in Your … Everything
As you make it through Round 1, new and more difficult rounds and bopping challenges are unlocked. To be honest, however, the biggest challenge of the game is actually unintended. For all of the Kinect system's whizbang technology, its tracking mechanics are just enough out of sync to be annoying. So when you thrust your hands out in front of you, expecting your avatar to stop on a dime … she actually stops several dimes and a couple of quarters later—landing you in the drink. Or when you try to jump the sweeper or vault the pitchfork tumbler, you've got to initiate your move just a bit sooner than your eye would say is right.

That doesn't stop the game in its tracks, though. And neither does its "content." The most offensive bits on the TV show are the commentators' running gags, mocking commentary and sometimes sexually suggestive quips. Here, though, the talk isn't quite so cheap … or cheeky. "Good night and big balls" and "Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am! More on the bam, less on the thank you" are the worst we hear. Not quite "side-splitting," as the game box promises, but nothing ear-stinging either. In fact, the E10+ rating is probably derived more from the painful-looking video clips culled from the live show than from anything in the actual game.

So if splatting, bouncing, guffawing and backwards somersaulting are all your cup of mud, then Wipeout: In the Zone wants to give you and your family several yards of it to tumble through. Just do one thing for me, will you? Grant Dad a little grace when he's grunting and grimacing his way past that Styrofoam-covered twirling thingamajig.

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Xbox 360




June 14, 2011

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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