Review: Yoostar 2: In The Movies (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Review: Yoostar 2: In The Movies
Developer: Blitz Games Studios
Publisher: Yoostar Entertainment Group
Genre: Kinect Party game
Release Date: 03/08/2011

The party game is not a new invention. If a game has a local multiplayer function and is in any way popular there is a chance that somebody somewhere has invited friends over, sat down in front of thew couch, and popped the game in their system of choice. Add in libations of choice and entertainment is almost certain to be found. Thanks to Guitar Hero and Rock Band developers have realized that a game can have a much greater impact if it touches on subjects more people care about. For them it was music. For Yoostar 2 it’s Hollywood blockbusters that everyone has watched, and the memorable scenes found within.

Just about everybody can recall a favorite quote from a popular movie or occasionally a TV show. Be it Arnie in the Terminator telling a guard he’ll be back or Tom Hanks telling Houston that Apollo 13 had encountered a problem, if you’ve watched movies at all in the past 20 years you’ve likely at least heard the catch phrases if not viewed the actual scenes in which they occurred. Yoostar 2 takes many of these famous scenes, applies a technique called Rotoscoping to remove the actors who appeared in that scene, and then with the help of the Kinect places you in that scene.

Story/Modes:

There is no story to the game, so I will speak about the modes included instead. The meat and potatoes of the gameplay modes is the Challenge mode, where you unlock portions of a virtual Hollywood pie by completing the objectives of previous pie pieces. So far so good. Then you have the quick play option which allows you to access your list of unlocked movies instantly and create play lists, all without having to navigate the Hollywood pie. That wraps up the gameplay portion of the modes you can access, but there is more on the menu. Specifically during game play you can save the videos of yourself to both your hard drive and to the Internet via various web 2.0 sites and Yoostar‘s very own portal. One menu option allows you to view all movies you have saved to your hard drive and another allows you to view any movies which people around the world have chosen to upload. Perhaps the next Jason Statham will be discovered thanks to this game, one never knows. Your videos must be approved by a moderator, so there is very little chance of any uncalled for nudity, or called for nudity for that matter, so it’s safe for the kids to watch you play or even interact themselves. Just remember what happens to child actors, though. Lindsay Lohan had such potential. Sniff. Anyway, you can vote on the videos you watch, and can even earn achievements for giving out awards.

Graphics:

How well you are integrated into the movie scenes will depend entirely on how good the lighting is in your room. You are never going to get a seamless insertion as the camera on the Kinect is a piece of garbage Hollywood wise, but for the purposes of the game it will certainly serve. I myself noticed that during my “performances” the camera was able to see me quite easily but I had a very rough outline. This can be attributed to the Kinect camera only being about to capture video at 640 by 480 whilst the movie scenes are shot and shown at a much higher resolution. To give the developers credit it does not look hideous, and many may not even care. I’m just a video snob after all, so I notice.

The rest of the graphics are very glossy, another example of the developers trying to go with a Hollywood feel. The menus, such as they are, look very sharp.

Sound:

The music has a very Golden Age of Hollywood feel to it. It all sounds like something you might hear at the Oscars. Not for what is nominated, but rather what the orchestra plays to shut the actors up. Overall it’s not bad, it’s certainly not annoying, and I would say it does a nice job of setting a Hollywood kind of mood.

The dialogue is taken directly from the movie scenes themselves. Before starting a scene you can see how it was originally presented in the film, with voices at full volume. During the recording, however, whomever is acting opposite you in the scene will have their dialogue lowered, though not muted entirely, so that it won’t distract you while giving your lines yet still enable you to know when they are speaking. This ensures that you won’t jump the gun and talk over Bogart’s “Here’s looking at you kid”. When the scene plays back again afterwards the volume on secondary characters is brought back up a little bit but I felt as though it was not brought back up completely.

Sound effects are at a minimum here, kept mostly to menu navigation and awards received. Nothing too dramatic.

Control and Gameplay:

I’ll state my number one objection with the controls up front. This game is crippled by the Kinect. Using the camera obviously makes sense when it comes to the actual acting in the game but when it comes to navigating menus and selecting options the game is quickly bogged down in a mire of hopeless frustration known as navigation by Kinect. The game desperately needs the option to let you turn on a controller and just go. Selecting scenes in Quickplay, which would be routine in any normal game is an aggravating chore. The menu is built in the shape of a wheel, allowing you to spin until you find something you like. Unfortunately that involves holding out your arms until you get to the movie you want and then having to go back because you didn’t lower your arms in time to stop it, then back again three or four times until you manage to select what you wanted.

The menu in challenge mode is no better. In fact, it’s slightly worse as it just adds a layer to the cumbersome process. With a controller the menu would be damn near sexy. Without one, though, it’s just too annoying to put up with for very long. And that’s not even including the one really annoying feature of the game involving menus. After you finish a scene you are presented with an option to save the movie, upload the movie, or go back to the main menu. This comes up every single time. I would much rather they had included an option to never bother uploading or saving in the main menu for those of us who have no desire to upload our videos or clutter our hard drives with videos of horrible acting.

I have already described the gameplay for the most part – you pick your movie scene and then act it out. I’ll give you a little more depth description though, since that’s what you’re here for. You select your scene and watch the original, and then you are given a screen containing a silhouette that outlines where you should stand on screen so that you are on your mark, as the actors say. Then once the scene begins you see yourself on screen with the dialogue scrolling above, much like it does for the singers in Rock Band. A line passes through the words in the script when the time comes for you to speak it, and dialogue spoken by your character is colored differently from that spoken by anyone else in the scene.

At the end of the scene your performance is graded based on how well you interacted with the scene, how closely you matched the original pacing of the dialogue, and if you achieved the various goals set for you by the developers. An example of this in Challenge mode involves picking a scene with a helicopter in it. After a careful examination of the options presented to me I chose a scene from Angels and Demons, as it ends with a helicopter flying off towards Rome’s International Airport (or at least I’m assuming as I’ve never watched that movie, but it’s implied in the scene). It is required that you achieve these goals as you cannot proceed very far in challenge mode without doing so. And as not every secret goal is as obvious as that one, this becomes an annoyance pretty quickly.

Replayability:

Well, the developers at Yoostar Entertainment clearly liked what they found when they played Rock Band, because Challenge mode feels quite similar. You play the same scenes over and over until you can do them in your sleep, and then when you get bored of them you go onto the Yoostar Store and buy more. At the minute you can purchase that epic scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of KHHHAAAAANNNNNNN!!!!!!! as well as some others, but the selection is not terribly huge as of this writing. Yes, that is indeed what she said.

Many of the scenes are fairly short, and it feels as though navigating the menus to get to them takes longer than acting them out. In fact, it might have taken you longer to read this paragraph than it will for you to act out some of the scenes. That is only a mild exaggeration.

The game is also clearly aiming to be the next party game in the Rock Band mold. Namely you and your friends get together and stick the game in, then proceed to get drunk and or stoned and act foolishly on camera, either solo or opposite each other. The premise falls apart just a tiny bit, though, when you factor in friends who aren’t interested in acting when there is fragging to be done, and trying to navigate those menus while inebriated must be like the worst sobriety test in history.

The game offers an excellent introduction to the Filmaker’s art of ADR, or dialogue replacement, so acting classes might be encouraged to use the game. It’s got that going for it at least.

Balance:

Some of the scenes deeper into the game require you to move about the “set” if you like, interacting instead of just standing there and delivering lines. This requires watching the scenes enough to know where to go next. And some of the “mystery” goals are not as obvious as they could be. I suppose that’s why they are mystery goals, but shut up, this is my review and I’ll complain about what I want.

Some of the scenes aren’t actual movie scenes, but are instead movie sets from famous movies like Gladiator or Top Gun. When recording on these stages you are not presented with any dialogue options and are encouraged to ad-lib, yet are strangely recorded as though you are supposed to be reciting dialogue, with your lines getting cut off during playback. I don’t know quite what the developers were thinking there.

Originality:

Well, the only competition Yoostar 2 has in this field is its little known predecessor Yoostar 1, which was released on Mac and PC if Wikipedia is to be trusted. There is a Playstation Move game that deserves no advertising which claims to be based on Television programming but that is nothing at all like this. So in that respect the game is very original.

Actually there is nothing in the game that I can claim is copied from anywhere else, except for how the game feels like a Movie version of Rock Band.

Addictiveness:

The game is not exactly addictive. There are elements there that can grab you, reasons to hope for a Yoostar 3 with a bigger budget to go after more movies perhaps. Glimmers of the potential that is certainly there.

Appeal:

How appealing this game is rests entirely on how creative and imaginative you and your friends are. If you are the type to gather around and spout off famous movie quotes, you might find yourself really enjoying the game. If, however, you would rather watch a movie then star in one the chances of you really digging this game are hindered by the menus and rather limited selection of movie scenes available on the disc. There might in fact be 80 scenes available on the disc but only half of them are actual movie scenes and even fewer of those are any good or famous.

Miscellaneous:

One of the problems with the game is the lack of actual scenes that I’m interested in re-enacting. I like Ben Stiller and all but I don’t think there needed to be scenes from 10 (ok 4, it only felt like 10) of his movies. And teasing me with scenes from Gladiator, Top Gun, The Matrix, and other movies that have highly quotable scenes in them only to not pay off is just a huge let down. I don’t know if they couldn’t get the actors in those movies to OK appearing in a game or something, but whatever happened they need to correct that for the next one. If there should be a next one. I demand to be able to tell Neo that his name is in fact Mr. Anderson, or that I detest the smell of humanity. Also: Needs more Arnold.

Finally, I have to admit that when doing scenes where I was acting in place of Arnold or Sly Stallone, I found I simply could not act the part without also doing the accent. This needs to be encouraged, as I found it most entertaining. It’s nawt a tooooomah!

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Classic
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Mediocre

FINAL SCORE: Mediocre Game

Short Attention Span Summary
The idea is a great one, but the game is hampered by its execution. Things like more famous scenes and the option to navigate menus with a controller would boost this game’s score so much it’s not funny.

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