Version tested: Xbox 360
"Where are our games?" So wailed the gaming hardcore when Kinect galloped into view, bringing with it cuddly animals, carnival games and Avatars playing volleyball. "Oh, don't worry, we'll get around to you eventually," replied the games industry (speaking as one for the sake of a clumsy review intro). "We'll make some hardcore games with some blood and swearing, and maybe a bit of side-boob if you're lucky."
Cue Rise of Nightmares, a proper, 18-rated marathon of gore in which you hack zombies to pieces and there are sexy ladies in short skirts and characters say "f**k" and it's totally for grown-up gamers who crave mature adult entertainment.
Or maybe not, but Sega at least deserves credit for trying to make an actual action game on Kinect. It would have been very easy to stick the player on rails, throw in some crude hand-slashing, make with the entrails and call it a day. That Rise of Nightmares offers freedom of movement in a three-dimensional world is reason enough to at least salute the noble intentions on display.
After a brief pre-credits intro sequence, you're in control of Josh, on a European holiday with his wife. Long story short, their train derails in a cursed forest, she gets kidnapped by a mad scientist and Josh has to carve his way through the living quarters of the recently deceased. You could almost call it a house of the dead, in fact.
Sega's famous lightgun blaster is an obvious influence, along with similarly loopy horror games like Clock Tower and Resident Evil. The plot is by turns predictable and bats**t insane and the voice acting comes with an exclamation mark at the end! Of every! Line! If this were a traditional joypad game, it would barely be worth a second look, but the addition of motion control makes it a unique experience.
Movement is handled by putting one foot forward to start Josh moving. The further forward you move your foot, the faster he goes. Step back and he back pedals. Turning your shoulders steers him left and right. It's simple and it comes tantalisingly close to working.
When there are few enemies around, or when you're asked to explore a location, it's perfectly possible to get about with a decent degree of accuracy. Admittedly, you do tend to veer from left to right, constantly adjusting your direction with woozy torso gyrations that leave you looking a bit Jack Sparrow - but it's intuitive, reasonably effective and extremely promising.
Objects of interest are highlighted and a quick gesture glues your viewpoint to them. If it's a door, you push to open it (or kick it). If it's a switch, you pull it down. If it's a wheel, you spin it. Obvious stuff, but the game injects enough variety in its opening levels for you to feel genuinely immersed. Swimming through a murky lake and then having to brush leeches off your arms, or rummaging in the guts of a cadaver for a key are just some of the delightful actions you'll be asked to mime.