Hole in the Wall is the second Xbox Live Arcade game and is a digital incarnation of the classic Japanese gameshow Nōkabe (Brain Wall) which is better known as “Human Tetris” or simply as Hole in the Wall in the US. Me and Raluca had a go at the Kinect game and this is what we think of it.

Perfect for Kinect

The premise of Hole in the Wall is simple: the player stands on a platform with a wall in front of him and a pit of water behind him. When the game starts the wall will start moving towards the player, eventually going so far that it will push the player in the water. But of course there is a hole in this wall! This hole can be of any shape and may be large or small, easy to get through or almost impossible to get through. It’s up to the player to position himself in such a way that he will fit through the hole and to do this in time before being pushed into the water. It’s a simple concept but fun to watch, mostly because of the ridiculous poses or impossible jumps the players must perform in order to pass the wall.

Hole in the Wall is one of those things that just perfectly suits the Kinect controls. This is absolutely something that you can’t do with a traditional xbox controller, can’t do with a Wii controller and can’t do with a Move controller. Kinect is the only way to go here, as it is the only camera that can accurately read the whole body and extract a perfect silhouette. For that reason I was pretty excited when hearing about this game, because it is a perfect match for Kinect!

Almost like the gameshow

Hole in the Wall for Kinect tries to copy the feeling of the gameshow as well as possible. The stage looks similar, there is similar commentary, there is cheering of the audience and your Avatar gets dressed up in the same suit. When it comes to “fitting through the hole” it gets a bit different. In the game show you obviously have to fit through when the wall starts hitting the player. In the Kinect game you have to try to match the shape of the hole for a small period of time. As you match the shape a counter will fill up and you pass the stage when the counter is fully filled. This counter will fill up quicker as you match the shape more accurately. Perform a perfect match and you’ll pass a stage almost immediately or perform a less accurate match and the counter will fill up slowly (risking running out of time and failing the stage). The quicker you pass a stage, the more point you will accumulate.

The game can be played by up to two players at the same time, and by four players in total (2 versus 2, taking turns). When you play in a team both players will have to match the shape in order for the counter to start filling up. The team that gets the highest amount of points wins the round. Sounds like a pretty fun game right? Well this is where the bad stuff starts…

Graphics...not so good.

Who is who?

I guess Hole in the Wall is made as a party game: getting four people together and just having a bit of fun with each other sounds like the way to go with this game. Well, that fun is lost a bit if you think about the fact that the people who are not playing will have to be totally out of sight of Kinect because otherwise it gets totally confused. For example: Raluca was the active player and I was sitting on the coach behind her. Kinect would still pick up my silhouette and would count it as part of Raluca’s silhouette, even though our silhouettes didn’t even connect! Because of this she failed every single stage, I had to move completely out of Kinect’s field of view for her to continue playing. And that’s not all that goes wrong: When switching players or team Kinect get confused as to who is who! I was player one, but became player two. I walked out for Raluca to become player two again but she became player one. We both walked out and I came back and suddenly my avatar was totally different (I think it was player 3 now or something…), it just doesn’t work! I can’t even imagine the chaos when there are four players in the room. This is just not good and because of this the game is either completely unplayable or not fun for the non-players because they have to move far away from the playing area.

To fit or not to fit through

Then there is the accuracy of the Kinect sensor: It does an excellent job at creating a proper silhouette but then it completely messes up the “checking if you would fit through the hole”. Sometimes I’m totally putting my silhouette in the hole, expecting a perfect fit and Kinect will not even start to fill in the counter. Other times I was just all over the place with my silhouette, totally not fitting through the hole and I was getting full points. It just seems random! This spoils the fun and makes it impossible to finish stages at times.

A green silhouette means a perfect fit...or so you would think...

This is just wrong

The “Show” mode of the game takes you all around the world with numerous different levels. You start in Europe and as you finish shows you unlock more countries or continents and get to “harder holes”. This is actually not too bad because there is a fair bit of content here (there is also an endless mode in which you match an endless stream of walls till you fail one). The graphics (which are pretty terrible by the way) also change a tiny bit depending in which country you play. One thing that just completely threw me off was in Europe there is a particular wall that makes you do the Nazi Salute. Doing this is absolutely not done and where I live you can actually get arrested for doing that! So seeing that I just thought that was so wrong.

“Deluxe” Edition

Consequently, a disc version of the title was produced and published which actually has more content on it being labelled as the Deluxe version and being sold everywhere else. The disc version also has the standard 1000 gamer points for achievements as regular games do, not the 200 like the arcade versions. Before I get to the differences, here is a video of the Deluxe version gameplay. If you have played the Arcade version, you will probably not notice anything different:

The major differences we noticed is that there are a lot more shows now, a total of 20 which are actually just themes, compared to the original 10 in the Arcade title. They’ve also added a Survival mode which allows you to take on wall after wall with no stopping. The biggest inclusion is probably the “Last Man Standing” mode. This uses Xbox Live to connect up to 10 people to play. Whoever survives the longest is the winner. There’s also a new “Extras” section which just unlocks videos of the real game show as well as it saves pictures now for reviewing. Here’s a video of one of the “extra” unlocks, so you can determine if 15 second clips are worth the extra to you:

The problem with it, what comes down to it as the first one had the same problem, is the price. It’s listed here in the states at $39.99. Not many people will be rushing out to get this new edition at that price. Overall, this is the version that should have been the arcade version, it would have definitely been worth the 800MSP originally. Does the deluxe edition help this title at all? In our opinion, enough to give it a 5 instead of a 4, but again, it’s not something you are going to have to have, it’s for certain individuals and I’d definitely recommend waiting until it’s in the bargain bin.

Conclusion

So there you have it: Hole in the Wall does a fairly good job at imitating the game show and it has a nice bit of content, but the Kinect tracking and identification just doesn’t work and that totally spoils the entire game! If the tracking worked I think this game would be fairly amusing but in its current state it is just not good. I hope there will be a patch out of something that gets rid of these nasty bugs in the game because there is potential. For now I would not recommend spending 800 points on this poorly produced game.

4/10

A copy of Hole in the Wall was provided by Microsoft for review.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Hole in the Wall
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