Martial Arts is often taught as one of the most disciplined forms of self defense. As a child, I took Tae Kwon Do classes, though I left a few belts short of black for no better reason than laziness. I always respected the values of discipline and peer-respect it instilled in me, however.
In later years, I've seen some strange ways of selling Self Defense packages, from late night made-for-TV seminars to Bas Rutten's self-defense tape. Needless to say, I was intrigued at the prospect of a self defense game for Kinect, especially one put together by the ambitious minds at Ubisoft. I respect Ubisoft for taking on some of the most difficult ideas, even when they don't always pan out, and so I begin my journey into Self Defense Training Camp.
First off, it should be noted that this game requires A LOT of space to work with. If you live in a small apartment, you cannot Self Defense. If you have a very narrow living room, you cannot self defense. If you cannot stand around 10 feet away from the sensor, you cannot Self Defense. If you are pregnant, you cannot Self Defense. If you have heart conditions, you cannot Self Defense. If you cannot Self Defense, you cannot Self Defense
If this was a Twitter discussion, the hashtag for all these restrictions would be: #youcannotselfdefense
The problem with having a small living room to play this game is prevalent right away when the Kinect sensor would barely recognize my navigating motions through the menus. You see, to make your way through the menus, you have to throw punches. Unfortunately, it doesn't specify WHERE on the screen you have to aim your punches. After throwing the
following series of punches:
-A right straight
-A right hook
-A right uppercut
-A right Tiger Uppercut
-An overhand right
-A left jab followed by an overhand right
-A right front kick
An overhead Rock Paper Scissors motion finally worked, and then I couldn't replicate where I needed to throw the punch to get to the next menu, so I was stuck again. Finally,
someone else in the room discovered that it was a groin level punch moving downward that seemed to work. That's one to keep in mind later on, because I guarantee you, that will
come in handy later on.
Once you get into to the main game, you're surprised to see that nothing's unlocked. You can practice some techniques, but all of the fun modes require you to play the others to
unlock them. We're not talking unlockable characters or submodes that come with time, or passing other modes. This is entire segments of the game that are missing. In effect,
the game is forcing you to play everything (and get a perfect five stars no less) to even get to the other basic features it offers.
Before you can commit to the real aspects of self defense though, you must practice some of the techniques that will make you a self defense machine. Thats right, we talkin about practice.
Adding a strange element to the game is the unbelievably serene announcer, who urges you to defend against your attacker with all the charisma of the dad from Family Ties. I wasn't expecting enthusiastic instruction by any means, but his calm in directing you to act outwardly toward your oppressor is awkward at best.
You jump through a series of stages that guide you step by step through some of the basic techniques, along with a timed activity at the end (which doesnt match your sense of urgency, and trundles its way through the motions like a malfunctioning Chuck E Cheese animatronic puppet). At certain points, the game allows you to cache your moves too, because it doesnt always react as fast as you do. Helpful, except the timed activities doesnt carry a leaderboard, and dont time you. The music doesnt add ambience, the characters dont add atmosphere, and the beautifully textured, sun drenched, bright cherry blossom trees make me wish I was outside frolicking in the park next door than playing video games.
Let me quickly take you through an overview of what you can expect in the first hour or two of the game:
Stage one: Hit your attacker in the groin, strike them in the arm, and then hit them in the groin again.
Stage two: Hit your attacker in the groin, feign interest in another technique and then hit them in the groin again.
Stage three: Hit your attacker in the groin, recite the third verse to Salt n Pepa; pull out your cell phone to dial your best friend and then use the phone to hit the
attacker in the groin.
(Stage 3 may not have happened for real in the game, but its pretty close to some of techniques youll see)
Stage four: Hit your attacker in the groin, and then just hit them there again.
I was excited to see that there was a chokehold involved at some point, only to see there was a mongolian chop followed by a kick to the groin.
In the hours I spent painfully learning that self defense is all about hindering a man's ability to reproduce, I was rewarded with no achievements. If that wasn't a kick to the
groin (pun intended), I don't know what is.
When the most exciting part of an instructional technique is the fact that completion means you're one step closer to the end, there's problems. The game has basically assumed all attacking assailants are males as well. It sounds strange, but I dont feel properly equipped to defend myself if a woman comes up to me with a weapon in hand and asks me for my wallet, unless that woman is Boy George, in which case Im ready to kick him right in the karma chameleon and run away.
A more apt title for this game may have been Dr. Junklove or: How I Learned to Stop caring and Love the Groin shot.
Sound: 1/10. What do you do when a game brings you almost no worthwhile sounds? I dont think the characters made a single emotional noise. The strikes themselves offer no semblance of realistic noise, and it seems like the entire recording budget may have been reserved for Family Ties dad and his groin torturing happiness. I dont know that this is Ubisofts fault either. All of these attempts at peace-inducing, serenity providing games seem to throw out nothing in the way of sounds outside of croaking frogs, rushing water and chirping seagulls. Maybe this game was just continuing that chain? In addition, with Microsofts attempts to create more voice command recognition in their Kinect titles, I dont believe this title has a single one. That would be alright if the controls were responsive or the menus were easy to go through, but that in itself poses another challenge
Controls: 3/10. Credit where credit is due. The menus are a great workout for your arms since you seemingly have to throw numerous punches for your request to register. The menus are easily the best workout of the game. However, the game itself can be pretty responsive, though the controls are hindered by the fact that the gameplay lags behind so far that you never truly feel that sense of urgency you would most certainly get from a real attacker. The attacker isnt going to wait for you to right your balance and begin your next strike from a fixed position.
Gameplay: 0/10. This game is honestly catering to a non-existent demographic. Parents shouldnt be teaching their children that this is proper self defense. Put them in Tae Kwon Do, or a less combative, discipline oriented martial art. I cant even begin to think who would realistically consider this to be a learning aide. Most individual demographics (be it age, gender, etc) I can think of wouldnt think this to be effective or a must have. School gym classes perhaps? Thats an untapped marker the Kinect and Ubisoft could look to utilize. Still, the fact that this game is so happy with groin punching before it turns into a cardio workout that youre not quite sure what youre playing. This is a strange brew of over the top womens self defense videos from the 80s that portray everybody as a knife wielding molester, and those fitness programs that are on TV at 5AM that take place in the warehouse of the local TV station.
I mean, in the end, kudos to Ubisoft for trying, but I dont think the world needed this game. At one point, a loading screen urges you to join a gym or dojo to master yourself. Good idea. A Kinect is $150, and this game is $60. You can either use that $210 to join a gym or dojo instead, or just practice hitting someone in the junk while
yelling "I DON'T KNOW YOU! THAT'S MY PURSE!!!" like Bobby Hill and save yourself the trip. The game's biggest redeeming quality might be the cardio workouts, but every Kinect game out there basically does it, and it's really not worth playing and getting gold status through every single mode in the game to get there.
I believe it goes without saying: You cannot Self Defense.