As every platform holder knows, hardware launches must be conducted in accordance with the regulations set out in an act of parliament passed in 1868, commonly known as Gladstone's Mixed Bag Law.
This law states that every launch line-up of software should include a couple of decent titles along with some rubbishy old nonsense. However, line-ups must mainly be comprised of games no one will be able to remember the names of in three years' time.
Microsoft is no lawbreaker. For evidence of this, look no further than Kinect launch games Dance Central, Fighters Uncaged and that thing about leopards.
But with any platform debut, it's the second wave of software which is always the most interesting. Mainly because it tends to be made up of games which could feasibly have been put out at launch but weren't, either because they weren't considered complete and polished enough to fully represent the capabilities of the hardware, or because they are ****.
Perhaps things will be different this time. Perhaps the second lot of Kinect games will surprise us all with their quality, diversity and innovation. Now let's see... A collection of sports mini-games, a keep fit title, a French dancing game, a hoverboarding game starring Sonic the Hedgehog and a hoverboarding game not starring Sonic the Hedgehog. What could possibly go wrong?
(NB: Have no fear, fanboys! A roundup of the second wave of Move titles is coming soon.)
Sports Island Freedom
"Move Your Body! Play All 10 Complete Sports Online," says the back of the Sports Island Freedom box. That is all it says. This is worrying. If you can only afford to pay someone to write two sentences about your game, who knows what your development budget was like.
Plus, you could be in trouble if the best thing you can say about your mini-games is that they're "complete". This implies players are supposed to ignore any issues with the gameplay, and just be grateful you remembered to put in the tennis balls and give everybody hands.
But let's not judge a game by its back cover. Or its front cover, which betrays the publisher's belief that doing the logo in the Mario font will fool us into thinking this game is any good. No. Let us judge Sports Island Freedom by its poor visuals, infuriating interface and supremely tedious mini-games instead.
Anyone for Tennis? You won't be when you discover the court is built on quicksand! Or so it seemed during my first match, judging by the way my character appeared buried up to his waist. Restarting the match solved this problem, but none of the problems the game has when it comes to recognising your moves with any kind of consistency.
It's impossible to hit more than one in five balls, no matter how hard you try or how good a player you are. But don't worry – your NPC opponents stay rooted to the spot regardless of where you aim the balls, so they can't return shots either.
The Boxing mini-game sees you controlling a pair of disembodied gloves as you face off with yet more stupid opponents. Just as no one thought to tell the tennis guys you can move around the court, no one told the boxers you can hit back. At one point I simply gave up and stood still, and it took my opponent a full five seconds to realise now might be a good time to throw a punch.
The Archery tournaments take place in the ruins of an ancient temple, so ancient you could swear you remember Lara exploring it in 1994. Hitting the target feels like it has much more to do with luck than skill, while holding an invisible bow and arrow just feels stupid.
Snowboarding Cross suffers from terrible lag and the game's inability to remember that leaning right probably means you want to go right, not jerk left so hard you topple backwards into the snow.
Paintball features a ridiculous control system which involves waving your left arm to move about and your right arm to shoot. While you're trying to manage this, your NPC opponents are trying to work out how to lift their feet off the floor, and failing, so they just slide around the ninetiestastic Gladiators-style arena in an hilarious manner.
Dodge Ball and Beach Volleyball are painfully slow. Mogul Skiing is barely playable due to yet another rotten control system – it takes ten minutes to work out what you're supposed to do, and another 15 to get the game to recognise you're doing it. Like Boxing, Kendo isn't very challenging (at one point, I stood there for 17 seconds with my arms folded before my opponent bothered to take a swipe).
The best mini-game is Figure Skating. Yes, really. Unlike with so many of the other games there's no lag, as you're shown the moves you have to perform in advance anyway, and the music's quite nice.
You might think these mini-games would be more fun in multiplayer. Well, good luck trying to persuade anyone to stick with you through the 7000 appallingly designed menu screens you must negotiate before you get anywhere near playing an actual game.
It doesn't help that Sports Island Freedom endlessly struggles to tell your left hand from your right and register what you're trying to select. This makes menu navigation the most challenging mini-game of all.
You'll need even more luck trying to find someone to play against on Xbox Live. I couldn't, for any mini-game, with any settings, at any time of day or night.
Perhaps Sports Island Freedom is best summed up by the person I forced to help me test out the multiplayer mode. His verdict, following several long minutes of tedious menu navigation and 48 seconds of gameplay:
"What is the point of this? It is appalling."
Sonic Free Riders
Why is SEGA endlessly obsessed with putting Sonic on hoverboards? The whole point of him is he can run really fast anyway. It's like Superman getting into hang gliding. And yet, here we have another game nobody asked for in the shape of Sonic Free Riders.
This time our hero is accompanied by a cast of characters which can only be described as spectacularly stupid, even for a Sonic game. 'Storm the Albatross'? Because what child would want to be a cute cat or brave lion when they could be a nearly-extinct giant sea bird?
At least the tracks you get to race around are all right, in a sort of garish, noisy, Saturday morning cartoon mass-produced in a South Korean animation sweatshop kind of way.
There are plenty of ramps and jumps and shortcuts. There are gold rings to collect and turbo boosts to exploit. There's a good selection of fun power-ups and you can activate them using motion-controlled movements – performing a bowling gesture to unleash the bowling ball, for example.
In other words, Sonic Free Riders is a decent-looking, well put together game which would be quite enjoyable – if the control system worked properly.
The in-game instructions tell you to stand sideways-on and lean backwards and forwards to steer. Instinctively, you'll probably bend your knees and tilt your whole body using subtle movements, as if you were on a real-life skateboard.
This doesn't work. Instead, Sonic Free Riders wants you to bend your body at the hips and lean your torso at extreme angles. Using this method makes steering easier but feels daft, and it doesn't improve the game's ability to recognise your intentions consistently. One minute you'll be cruising round corners with ease, the next you'll be smashing straight into a wall, with no idea what you did wrong.
Sonic Free Riders also suffers from an awkward menu system. This one involves performing diagonal swipes to drag circular icons onto arrows and other such nonsense. Throw in some tedious text-based static cut-scenes, which are fiddly to skip, and the game's constant recalibration requests, and entering a race quickly becomes more trouble than it's worth.
Just as with Sports Freedom I've forgotten the name of it already, Sonic Free Riders is no more fun with a friend. You'll both end up frustrated by the control system, irritated by the menu system and covered in bruises from headbutting each other in the back. Or worse.
The only reason to buy Sonic Free Riders would be if it was actually free. And even then, only if you just really liked the box.
The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout
"When I lapse into negative thinking, I go out and drown myself in positive friends who will make me laugh."
So speaks someone who clearly has yet to realise drowning oneself in gin and kebabs is much more effective. And who is American. No, I'm not being racialist - those words appear on a loading screen in The Biggest Loser Ultimate Workout, which is based on a US TV show. The premise is that contestants compete to win money by losing weight. Because as everyone knows, the true secret to happiness is being rich and thin.
Ultimate Workout is a fitness game in the mould of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and EA Sports Active 2.0. It's not as sleek, white and French as the former, nor as technically flawed as the latter. It's a decently put together contribution to the genre, despite the slightly naff presentation.
And despite the fact it features the worst avatar creator in the history of the world. Instead of a pictorial list of options you're presented with a series of sliding bars, and no indication as to what they mean.
Say you want to choose a new hairstyle – you must slide the bar along by tiny increments and wait for each hairstyle to load before you can see what the options are. You might think they'd put the short hairstyles at one end and the long hairstyles at the other, because that would be logical. You'd be wrong.
But Ultimate Workout isn't really about character creation. It's about exercises, of which there are more than 120, including upper body reps, yoga positions, cardio boxing and all that sort of thing. You can try them out in Freeplay mode or take part in the Challenge mini-games.
These are often nonsensical and frequently hilarious. The moves you must perform have nothing to do with the action happening on-screen. For instance, the Light Cycle mini-game shows your character pedalling an exercise bike to power light bulbs. But to make the character do this, you have to do things like jump up and down on the spot and lift your arms at right angles. Why?
The best thing about Ultimate Workout is the personalised fitness programme. Before you can begin this you must take part in a pretty serious and lengthy series of tests, including a full body scan and a questionnaire. Then there's a fitness test - it's advertised as being 30 minutes long, but actually the exercises get progressively harder and the test stops as soon as the game detects you're struggling.
Then you're given a programme of exercises suitable for your fitness level, and a virtual diary so you can tell when you're supposed to work out and track your progress. It's a good system which gives you the motivation to keep going over time.
When it comes to the actual workouts you can choose from two personal trainers - soft-spoken Bob, or shouty, intolerant Jillian, who looks like a sort of angry Julia Bradbury.
"Try to land your feet softly, don't stamp," whispers Bob. He's clearly met my downstairs neighbour.
"Quitting on me is quitting on yourself, and that's NOT what the Biggest Loser is all about," barks Jillian. She seems to believe it's about yelling at people so hard the fat seeps out of their pores and runs away in fear.
Sometimes the trainer will ask you a direct question, like whether you want to stop for a drink of water. Three multiple-choice answers will appear on-screen and you're supposed to read out the one you find appropriate – think Mass Effect with voice recognition and more lycra. It's a neat idea which would be much more impressive in practice if Kinect could hear better than my grandmother in a wind tunnel.
Other features unique to Ultimate Workout include the Health and Lifestyle Browser. Here you can find a selection of healthy recipes. Some of these sound all right but others display a fundamental ignorance of culinary truths, such as warm avocado is always wrong and lasagne made without pasta ISN'T LASAGNE.
You can also check out those motivational weight loss tips all in once place. These range from the obvious ("Don't eat junk food any more") to the quite mad ("If your calories for the day don't allow you to eat an entire piece of cheesecake, eat half of it. Then pour salt on the rest to avoid temptation").
There are some video clips too, in which glossy, sculptured Californians try to sound like they're excited about tofu milk and soy hot dogs. But really, the Health and Lifestyle Browser is just there as an excuse to advertise the thousands of self-help manuals and recipe books published under the Biggest Loser brand.
You'll probably want to give those a miss. But if you're looking for a Kinect fitness game which provides more motivation than Your Shape and is technically sounder than EA Sports Active, and if you can put up with the relentless cheeriness, Ultimate Loser is a decent choice.
Forget cheese and wine – these days, France's biggest export is dancing games. Ubisoft's been leading the charge with the Just Dance titles and Michael Jackson: The Experience. Now here comes Dance Paradise, a new offering from Mindscape.
You know, Mindscape – the people who brought us U Sing 2, Mon Premier Karaoke and Karotz: Lapin Intelligent. Mindscape – a company so French they haven't even bothered putting an English translation option on their website.
Dance Paradise presents a new twist on the motion-controlled dancing game genre. Unfortunately, it's a stupid twist no-one asked for and no-one will want.
As in other dancing games, you must copy the moves of an on-screen character accurately to score points. But in Dance Paradise, up to four avatars will appear on the screen at once. They dance down separate catwalks towards circular podiums. Only when a character reaches the podium do you perform the move.
The concept is clearly borrowed from Guitar Hero, the idea being you're able to see what's coming next and get ready for it. But in reality, trying to keep track of all the avatars can get confusing.
It's also tiring to have to keep switching your focus between podiums, and hard to get a real rhythm and flow going. When it comes to the harder routines even serious dancers will end up frustrated, while younger players will really struggle.
It doesn't help that the Dance Paradise avatars have neither the charm of Just Dance's real dancers nor the smooth moves of Dance Central's CG groovers. They're weird blank mannequins with square heads and cuboid limbs. The moves they perform are stilted and formulaic, and in no way resemble the kind of shapes you'd want to cut down the local disco.
At least the track listing is all right. There are 40 songs to choose from and they include modern hits like Lady Gaga's Bad Romance along with timeless classics such as U Can't Touch This. As this is a French game, there is of course some Daft Punk. Plus the actual videos are included on the disc – not that you'll have time to watch them when you're trying to keep an eye on four separate avatars.
There's a decent single-player career mode which presents you with specific challenges, rather than just demanding you score a certain minimum on each song. The three multiplayer modes allow two players to dance at once, unlike Dance Central. Attack mode is the most fun, allowing you to battle your opponent with power-ups that make their instructing avatar temporarily vanish and so on.
But ultimately, the silly multiple-avatar system and poorly choreographed dance moves let Dance Paradise down. The routines just aren't that much fun to perform or funny enough to watch. Young kids and badly co-ordinated adults will end up so frustrated they won't want to play, which ruins if for those of us who are spectacularly, unbelievably good dancers and enjoy laughing at them.
Another boarding game! And yes, it's just like Sonic Free Riders! Except Sonic and the stupid albatross have been replaced by a weird green wolf thing and an annoying surfer dude monkey. And the tracks aren't as good. And the power-ups are duller. And it looks horrible.
The control system is slightly more responsive. But this is like saying it's easier to perform keyhole surgery with your hands encased in oven gloves than clogs. Crossboard 7 is still inconsistent when it comes to recognising your movements or interpreting them with any degree of subtlety.
There are some different worlds. There are some alternative game modes. There is a two-player option. Why am I telling you this? We both know why. You don't care. I don't care. But one of us has to fill up the rest of the space on this page.
Can't we talk about something else? I don't mind what. What are you doing for Christmas? I think I'm going to eat a load of food and drink so much I cry when the X-Factor winner's single comes on the radio.
Do you want to come round? We could play Monopoly. Or RISK. Or Carcassonne or Settlers of Catan or Hungry Hippos. I don't care, so long as it's not Crossboard 7.
Merry Christmas, everyone!