Leedmees is one of the few XBLA games so far to require the Kinect peripheral, Fruit Ninja Kinect being its best-known predecessor. Nobody could expect an obscure, under-advertised title from Konami to reach Halfbrick’s lofty fruit-slicing heights, but it might have at least been decent. Sadly it doesn't even approach decent, but it's not for the lack of a clever premise.
Leedmees’ concept, a Lemmings-style game in which players direct troops of hapless creatures into a goal using their own bodies, certainly peaked my interest. Leedmees are little white guys who walk in a straight line no matter what danger lies ahead. They’ll turn around if they hit a wall, and that’s the extent of their intelligence. Players control a giant cave-drawing like figure whose movements more or less match our own. Scoop a Leedmee up in your arm and he’ll walk along it. You can let him walk off, drop him by angling your arm sharply down, or keep him boxed in by forming a football goal-post shape with your arms. Thus, as Leedmees drop in groups of 1-6 from their spawn point, players just have to carry them along the level and to the goal without smashing into anything dangerous.
Had the game only involved doing things with your arms, it probably would have turned out alright. But the third level introduces a new mechanic: picking Leedmees up off the ground. To do this, we’re told to bend our knees down, keeping our backs straight, and bend a hand way down low for the little critters to jump up and cling to. Hmm. I don’t know about you, but many people have trouble bending at the knees repeatedly, especially while keeping their backs straight. I can handle my share of squats, but the game, on the other hand, absolutely cannot. The great majority of the time, when I or my partner bent to pick up a Leedmee, our on-screen avatars would spazz out, legs going wild or bodies moving in completely unrelated directions.
I sometimes managed to pick up Leedmees from the ground by tilting my body to the side without bending my knees (hurting my back, ouch). But in both situations, Leedmees failed to track my hands properly when they got low. The on-screen avatar’s hand would often freeze in place at too-high angles or just spazz out, killing Leedmees. If only the little guys could jump about twice as high, the bending problem would have been circumvented. But they can’t, so the broken mechanic makes levels that require it (about 1/5 of the game) painful in every sense of the word.
Leedmees’ motion-control shortcomings wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t have a challenging game wrapped around them. First off, each level has a time limit of two minutes, so taking your time is seldom an option. Worse, the Leedmees are just too fragile. Every little thing kills them – moving your arms too fast, squishing them against your body or your partner’s, stepping on them or bumping them with your feet, squishing them against your head… That last one is particularly annoying as Leedmees often walk from one arm to another, right through the player’s head, but other times will be crushed against it. They also have a tendency to randomly shoot off of your body for no discernible reason, always resulting in untimely death. Unacceptable. Leedmees would probably still be a passable game despite the broken controls if the Leedmees weren’t so apt to die or vice versa, but the combination of the two renders it just about unplayable.