FRU Developer: Through Games Available On: Xbox One
When the Xbox One launched in 2013, the Kinect was a major part of their sales pitch. They described it as an essential part of their console and one that would change the way in which you played games. Fast forward three years later and with a string of lackluster Kinect games and console sales lagging well behind the PS4 and Microsoft has all but completely abandoned the peripheral. Most Xbox bundles aren’t being packaged with one and the upcoming Xbox One S doesn’t even have a port on the back to plug one in. All of this is a shame because I’ve just played the best game to ever require the Kinect.
FRU was born out of the 2014 Global Game Jam by a group of seven students and quickly gained attention as one of the most interesting uses of the Kinect technology. Microsoft quickly threw their support behind the game, but as is often the case with indie games from small development teams the game took longer then expected. The game now faces a tough road as it requires a peripheral that many people have either sold or packed away in the closet alongside their Rock Band drums and DDR dance pads. If you still have access to one though, it would be well worth your time to dig it out because FRU is a total blast.
The game is a side scrolling puzzle platformer which at first glance looks deceptively simple. Get from one side of the screen to the other without dying, simple right? The twist is that the silhouette that your body creates on the screen using the Kinect changes the world wherever it lands. The game is spread out over 110 levels which are divided up between 4 chapters. Each chapter in the game introduces a new twist in the way that your silhouette affects the world. In one chapter your silhouette might reveal platforms that are otherwise hidden while another has you using your body to activate switches around the level. My favorite though has to be the chapter in which your shadow serves as the water in which the player must swim through to reach the end of the level. It’s fantastically creative.
One of things I was most surprised about when I got my hands on the game is just how much I would need to twist and contort my body to get through it. I found myself stretching, sitting, standing, hopping and bending to make my way to the end. Some of the puzzles are so strenuous that I actually found myself breaking a sweat and getting winded after some of my longer play sessions (that might have more to do with my large gelatinous body though). Thankfully though the puzzles don’t only rely on your physical dexterity to get through them, you’ll also have to use your brain to figure out some of the trickier levels. And while some of the later puzzles do get tough, I was never stuck long enough to get frustrated.
Throughout the game you can also collect 24 hidden collectables to add a bit of an extra challenge and you can even unlock the original co-op build of the game that was shown off at E3 2014. While the main game doesn’t feature multiplayer or co-op, I did have a fun time with my kids having them stand in front of the TV as the silhouette while I shouted commands at them and used the controller. It definitely strikes me as a game that would be a lot of fun with the family or a group of friends taking turns and playing together.
FRU may be the victim of some unfortunate timing with regards to the Kinect, but if you do have one still hooked up (or away in the closet) this is an absolute must play. It features the most creative use of the technology I think I’ve seen yet and makes me wish more developers had come up with such imaginative uses for it. It also makes me very excited to see what this young studio can come up with next.