reviews\ May 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Yoostar 2 Review


With its groundbreaking capabilities and built-in camera and microphone, the Kinect seems destined for at least one effort like Yoostar 2. Yoostar captures the performance of the player and allows them to replace the previous actor in a memorable film scene. “Memorable” is a difficult label to apply in some cases, as the film clips range from genuine classics like The Wizard of Oz to the lame comedies of yesteryear like Baby Mama. The range is a wide one, so there should be something to suit everyone’s tastes. Mischievous players should note that these film scenes have been carefully selected to suit the game’s “T” rating. There will be no raunchy sex scenes for you to partake in, though that could be a promising aspect of a future version.

Film aficionados should also note that their precious clips have been edited to integrate more smoothly into the Yoostar experience. Remember that scene in Superman Returns, where the man of steel stops a plane from crashing into a baseball stadium? Of course you do--it was the only good scene in the movie. Sadly, Lois Lane is suspciously absent from the Yoostar version. Taking her place are awkward shots of the plane exterior. Some might fail to notice this, of course, too happy to be the flying superhero.

Maybe blue tights and a cape aren’t your thing. You can still heighten the performance with a simple getup of slightly less embarrassing design. Taking on The Terminator? Try donning a black jacket and some shades, and the effect will surely be … perhaps “convincing” isn’t as accurate as “entertaining.” The modest resolution of the video combined with your pixilated performance makes the final scene difficult to take seriously. The point isn’t merely to mimic everything, but to have fun with the performance and add your own touch. An “ad-lib” feature has been incorporated to that end, and you can even upload your saved videos for Facebook. Make sure you select the proper privacy setting if you don’t want others to see you making a fool of yourself.

Aside from adjusting your wardrobe, a few other things might enhance your performance. Lighting is tricky, since you may only have what’s available in the room or a small portable lamp. As always, the Kinect functions optimally in fairly bright indoor lighting (sunlight can cause slight interference), but if you want to get the right look, you could consider the lighting in each scene individually. Rehearsing is exceptionally useful, as one might expect. Reading the dialogue off the screen can be helpful when you’re learning it, but it doesn’t really work during the final performance, because it will look as though you’re staring straight into the camera while speaking your lines. These bits of fine-tuning may improve the final look, but how seriously you take the performance is a matter of personal preference. Hardcore precision masters will enjoy the competitive judgment aspect, which attempts to gauge the accuracy of your line delivery with mixed results. The Kinect’s microphone is generally less forgiving of soft-spoken lines, but the audio mixing could use some tweaking. Your own lines will often play back at a much higher volume than the original actor's, making you look kind of stupid.

The gameplay is simple enough for most children to grasp. A blank silhouette provides guidance for the “framing” of the shot. For example, a prostrate form in the left side of the frame means that you’ll need to mirror this with your body, until your digital doppelganger appears hunched on the left. At the top of the screen, dialogue is highlighted in perfect tandem with the original performance, which helps your cadence--although viewing the original scene first will provide most of the familiarity. Both silhouettes and dialogue are color-coded for assignment to multiple players, if you’re bringing a second thespian into the scene. Understandably, a maximum of two actors are allowed per scene. Even if the Kinect could handle an entire crowd, it would probably make the scene considerably more cumbersome. The roles are also ranked according to difficulty. Not feeling brave? Tackle a small role ranked as “easy” difficulty, which requires you to do little more than sit and say, “Yeah, totally!” until you feel ready to take on bigger roles. That doesn’t mean you can’t give everything you've got. Remember: there are no small roles, only small actors. Some of the choices for clips are rather questionable. Whose idea was it to use a scene from Mad Men without Don Draper? One can only guess there was some obscure legal issue involved.

One of the vaunted feats of Yoostar 2 is the ability to set the players in an environment without a green screen. Through a clever use of Kinect technology, the player’s silhouette is still often “framed” by snippets of the actual environment, including your starkly unappealing living room décor. This typically appears as a dark mass around the edges of the player’s form and is particularly noticeable after quick movement, when the tech hurriedly tries to discriminate between body and background. At other times, too much of the player is cut off, so you might be performing a scene only to have a third of your face vanish. It is not known if more could be done to minimize these problems given the hardware, but if nothing else, it does serve as a reminder of why green screen/blue screen is still a vital component of professional filmmaking.

Despite the promise of bonus content and the inherently open-ended nature of video recording, most players will feel bored after the first few hours. The clips are extremely brief, and the basic fun of performing in a digital environment loses its luster fairly quickly. The high level of technology and simplistic accessibility notwithstanding, Yoostar 2 feels like a casual distraction rather than a serious game. Future versions should try to expand the depth and long-term value before gamers take them seriously.


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