Kinect is the latest motion sensing offering from Microsoft to get gamers off their arm chairs and to introduce the whole family to their beloved Xbox 360. Kinect can be purchased as a bundle or as a standalone unit for around AU $195 and works with all models of the 360. The Kinect unit plugs directly into the console via USB and uses a combination of sensors, cameras, and microphones to detect and track movement. The technology is here in people’s living rooms a lot sooner that many of us thought it would be, so the question is: does it work? And should I buy it?
The first hurdle some users will face will be finding enough room in their house to play. The initial setup of the Kinect was a little tedious and I found I just had enough room to play in a decent sized lounge room of a family sized home. Once past this the interface is actually pretty responsive and once you get comfortable with moving your hands the way it is intended you will be feeling like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.
One thing that struck me straight away was how intuitive it was once you initially learned the basics. It feels like a massive improvement over the Wii and there is no risk of a controller being smashed through your flash flat panel TV, this has to be a good thing. The ease of use was highlighted by my 19mth old moving his hands gimmicking my gestures towards the TV. This additional movement of unscanned player wandering aimlessly in and out of my game caused some funny glitches and hair pulling moments equally.
The Xbox home menus are now segregated between the Xbox home screens and the Kinect Screens. This was a disappointment for me as I was assuming I would be able to scan and slide through demos once again like Tom Cruise whilst jumping up and down in excitement watching trailers for upcoming games.
So far the games on offer seem quite smart in that they are targeting the Wii market rather than forcing hard core gamers to play Call of Duty via Kinect. This line they currently haven’t crossed will be important to ensure the 360 remains competitive against the PS3 and Wii.
The Kinect is an impressive piece of kit and whilst stand alone the cost is the same as two games and this may turn off many buyers, it does offer fantastic value when purchasing a bundle to get a new 360 and Kinect module.
Our good friends over at Microsoft sent us 4 launch titles to review and try out so keep on reading to find out what’s on offer now and what games you should buy and which ones you might want to miss.
Dance Central a is a dancing rhythm game chocked full of pop music that will you have you making a fool out of yourself in no time and having a laugh whilst doing it.
The premise of the game is nice and basic; perform dance moves shown on the screen in time with the music. The characters on screen show you the moves and your aim is to mirror what they are doing.
The game is really easy to pick up, I am coordinated but you will never see me trying out for SYTYCD anytime this lifetime. There are 3 difficulty settings of Easy, Medium and Hard and they really do match the level of effort required for each individual track.
The music selection is pretty solid and there are 32 tracks currently to choose from, with DLC on the way. You will feel like a dick initially dancing in front of a screen but chances are everyone in the room will think they can outdo you and laughs ensue. Menu navigation is extremely slick and a standout of the launch titles on how easy it is to navigate around the menus.
I really expected to hate this game; I actually let out a groan when I loaded it into the console for review. Weeks on it is the first one I load up to show friends and is the game we end up coming back to play after too many glasses of wine. In short it is must have for music lovers who like to boogie.
Kinectimals is a virtual pet game featuring a host of adorable jungle cats that help you unlock the secrets of a magical island. This sentence really sums up the target audience so to review this game I invited over my 9 year old cousin Jess to play this title with me.
Kinectimals is one of the better looking Kinect titles and the interaction via Kinect is executed very well. Features such as calling your cub by its name, performing moves such as star jumps and scratching the cub behind its ear is “so cute” according to Jess.
Movement is actual really responsive and there are plenty of fun things to do with your cub, such as lie down until your cub plays dead or jumps as you do your best Jetstar impersonation, making “Leopard” the name of my panther cub chase a remote control car are just a handful of the fun ways to interact with the cub.
The game play include some mystery solving to ultimately find a lost treasure, and you will find yourself being suckered into doing “one more thing” This pacing really helps you get through the game, as far as length goes it took around 6 hours to complete the game. Replay value is pretty good as there were a host of mini games to earn experience points, and always the opportunity to improve.
Kinectimals does not appeal to myself and I was really lucky to have Jess come over for a couple of nights for “baby sitting”. Saying that though kids will love this game.
Kinect Joy Ride
Kinect Joy Ride is as you may have guessed a car racing game that makes you the controller along with your imaginary steering wheel. The first thing comes to mind well how do you push the pedal to the metal? You don’t have to worry about accelerating or braking. This is automatically handled by the game, thanks Mr Xbox.
The menus are not bad but not as polished as say Kinect Adventures or Dance Central. The control of the car is only “okay” for a launch title. I was quite disappointed by the responsiveness in this game. This game is meant to be arcade fun and not a GT killer, saying that I’m excited to see what Turn 10 (Forza) comes up with in the future.
Other than steering with your arms the only other movement the game accepts is the ability to build boost by holding the imaginary wheel close to your chest and then pushing it out full extending to leave your opponents in your wake. This feature really comes into its own when playing the mini games. One in particular puts yourself in an oversized skateboard bowl, twisting and boosting by using just your body is hilarious fun.
This is the one game I assumed I would love the most but sadly it just wasn’t the case. I wanted razor sharp steering and that’s what the controller is for. Car racing games are fun as a two player side by side or as a party game. Joy Ride will probably still end up in most people’s homes as it is the only Kinect racing game currently.
Kinect Sports is Microsoft’s not so subtle grab at the market share that has made Wii Sports on the Wii so popular and shifted a lot of consoles. The game was built by Rare who used to make games for Nintendo and this experience shines through. The ranges of sports available to play are varied and include Soccer, Volleyball, Boxing, Bowling, Track and Field, Table Tennis.
Soccer is great fun and for the first time for motion sports games you have legs and can use them too kick goals, block goals and dodge and move. Track and Field will have you working up a sweat. The long jump and 100m sprint are excellent fun versus your friends and will have you sprinting and jumping on the spot trying to outdo each other.
This is a great game to get your family into casual gaming because the movements you make are all so natural, such as throwing a javelin. Graphically speaking its colourful and cartoonish, it isn’t going to rival games like GOW but it serves a purpose and does it well.
Party Play allows up to 4 players to choose sides and battle it out for the lounge room supremacy. Kinect Sports is a must have for any Kinect owners.