Motion controllers are the new black. The Kinect is the latest shade of black, but is any good?
Ever since Nintendo made a HUGE comeback with the Wii and it's simple motion control system Sony and Microsoft have been working on their own systems. Sony introduced the Move a couple months ago and it was basically the same system as the Wii, just more advanced and more accurate. Microsoft decided instead of making a new controller they would make you the controller. Let’s take a closer look at it.
The Kinect was very easy to set up. Plug it in and it walked you (literally) through the process. One of the first things I used after it was finished was the voice command system. You can actually speak commands to your Xbox and it will respond. I easily went through the menu to the ESPN application and was able to tell it to play, pause, fast forward and rewind any event I chose.
A couple commands and I was back at the Kinect hub and called up the Last.FM application and was able to select a station and listen to music. I really love the voice command system.
The voice commands are not available in the Netflix application, yet. I’m sure Netflix is already working on an update for it. It seemed a bit like the voice command overall was limited to about half of what it could fully do on the system. For instance the Inside Xbox channel and all its videos (Dilbert, MSNBC, etc.) would be nice to have available to command.
The amount of space needed in your room. My game room is small. I have enough room to play single player for most of the games. That said, I am almost too close to it, so far it hasn’t been a problem. I had to go to a friend’s place to play it with multiple people. I am not sure this is something Microsoft can fix or not with an update to the software, we’ll see.
You as the Controller
So how did it do at reading your body for games? For the most part it did pretty good. In most cases is seemed to read my body well and I was able to do what the games asked. It wasn’t without its hiccups. Bowling in Kinect Sports for example didn’t always read my hand as throwing the ball, leaving me to have a ball “stuck” to my hand. Then again these problems were very similar to the problems the Wii had when it was first launched and just as that has gotten better I foresee the Kinect getting better too.
One of the advantages I feel the Kinect has over the Wii and Move is the fact that it sees your whole body as parts of the control scheme. With the Wii and Move they are only reading the controller and maybe its secondary controller for a max of two points on one person. The Kinect on the other hand sees multiple points on one person, your hands, your feet, your body, and even your head. There is a game in Kinect Adventures that really shows this aspect off. In it you have to hit balls down a hallway at targets at the other end. Bop ‘em with your hands, kick ‘em with your feet or bounce ‘em off your head and body, this is not something you can do with the Wii or Move.
The launch line up isn’t bad, but like any launch line up there isn’t a stand out must have game either. Developers are still learning what they can and can’t do with the Kinect so most of these are just basic ideas. So let’s take a quick look at some of the games available for the Kinect.
Games I Liked
Kinect Adventures is the pack-in game that comes with the Kinect. This game gives a great overview of what the Kinect can do. It’s fun to play by yourself, but like almost all of the Kinect games it is more fun with multiple players.
Kinectimals was surprisingly pretty good. This one is really geared towards kids. It has you adopt one of many different wild cat cubs (tiger, black panther, lion, etc.) and explore the island with them through many different mini-games. This game actually felt better as a single player game, but can be played multiplayer.
Dance Central will get you up “shaking your booty” with its moves. In some ways it kind of plays like a karaoke game in that you match what the character on screen is doing at the same time they are doing it. This was a great party game. I might make it on the dance floor after this.
Adrenaline Misfits is an arcade snowboarding game. The game’s overall feel is kind of like the classic SSX series, only instead of freaky humans it is freaky animals this time. The control on this game was very simple, mostly leaning. EA should take notes on this game and maybe look into relaunching SSX using the Kinect.
Kinect Sports was fun, but felt a lot like Wii Sports. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Like Wii Sports, Kinect Sports is pretty solid and shows off what it can do. This is also the game in which I learned I really needed to look at my whole surroundings when making sure everything is out of the way, like Christmas lights on the ceiling.
Games I didn’t Like
Kinect Joyride really felt odd here. There was some fun with it, but this is a game that really would have played better with regular controls. A racing game, even an arcade kart racer, really needs tighter controls than what the Kinect can offer at the moment.
Deca Sports Freedom is a mixed bag. Some of the games play very well, but most felt a bit off. Archery was the best, Paintball was the worst. Deca Sports is a great series on the Wii, so I’m hoping they will get better as time goes on.
Dance Masters was kind of best described by a friend of mine as “DDR repurposed.” The music is from the DDR series, but unlike Dance Central you aren’t actually doing dance moves. It is more of strike a pose at the right time or move/put your hands in the right spot at the right time. You could almost play this game with a minimal amount of movement.
Overall the Kinect is a good motion controller. It has some weak points, it has some strong points, but overall it works well. I’m looking forward to see what developers create for it once they really get some quality time working with it. As it stands right now I feel it is the one motion controller that truly gets you up and moving and it’s nice enough to remind you after a while to take a break.
No rating out of 5 for this one. I like it; I think it would be a great addition to anyone’s Xbox 360. If you have a family or host gaming parties then I highly recommend it. Kinect is available now exclusively for the Xbox 360.