Recently, I had the chance to go hands (and feet) on with a new Kinect Sports Rivals preview. During our time with the game, we experienced the bowling, soccer, tennis, climbing, and wave racing minigames.

The entire experience starts with a body and facial scanning process. This took only a couple of minutes and required some simple selections activated with a Kinect hand motion control. The end result was impressive, yielding an avatar that looked enough like me to be easily recognizable. (If this makes its way into other games with create-a-character, the value of Kinect skyrockets.)

Once that was complete, we dove right into bowling. Those planning on picking the game up on April 8 will need to go through a tutorial and a team selection process. These will last approximately an hour each.

Each of the Kinect Sports Rivals minigames features different equipment and power ups. The bowling game is similar to what we’ve seen in other motion controlled 10-pin experiences. I was impressed by the way Kinect detected hand spin and throw velocity. The developer opposite me even demonstrated throwing overhand, which the camera picked up accurately.

Activating one of the three powers (speed ball; hand switcher, which makes your opponent bowl with the opposite hand for a frame; and meteor, which cracks the alley) can be handled with voice or by stomping a foot once the meter is charged. These don’t seem to have a dramatic effect on the game, but can be used to rack up more pins or confound your opponent. Each of the games has a similar mechanic, with powers than can either boost you ahead or impede your foe.

The wave racing and climbing minigames both read movement well, but it takes time to get used to steering and reaching for a handhold without tactile response. Unlike past iterations of motion controlled titles, you can’t game the system. The Kinect 2.0 is simply too accurate, detecting even small movements like opening and closing your hands.

Laying a mine in front of an opponent or yanking him from the climbing wall are gleeful experiences. There are brief reminders of why local competitive play is so much fun, though they don’t persist quite long enough.

The tennis game is a bit disappointing, because of input lag. I had a hard time figuring out when to time my swings, and compensating for that delay made this the least enjoyable of the experiences. 

For those that do get hooked, there is a great seal of depth in Kinect Sports Rivals’ competitive modes. Local play, online competitions, and a concept similar to Forza Motorsport 5’s drivatars means that there will always be something to do or someone to compete against, even if no one is home and your friends are offline.

Playing earns coins to unlock new outfits, and as you compete and succeed, you’ll earn fans to power your online persona. Kinect Sports Rivals is shaping up to be the tech demo the new version of Microsoft’s camera needs, but it comes months late. If you’ve got a family (or have simply enjoyed the motion controlled sports offerings for the original Kinect), this is worth keeping an eye on. It’s unlikely to be a must-buy for the core market, though.

We’ll know for sure when Kinect Sports Rivals arrives on April 8.