Kinect & Kinect Adventures Review
Nintendo's Wii console had been a big hit for a very long time after release. Its Wiimote controller was revolutionary in getting people off the couch and to play games in a very uncharacteristic manner - using movement instead of simple button presses to play. This system appealed to gamers across the entire spectrum, from casual to hardcore. Well ... Maybe not quite hardcore gamers. But given the Wii's immense success, both Sony and Microsoft felt they had to get into the motion-sensing controller game. The time was ripe to tap into a new revenue stream. Sony introduced its Move controller and Microsoft went with the Kinect.
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While Sony's controller mimicked the Wii's controller very closely, Microsoft went with the approach of, "You are the controller." Its Kinect system was a camera controller you placed centered above or below your television. The Kinect tracks your movement to interact with the game. Quite frankly, this technology has the potential to usher in a new generation of video games. It also has the potential to take us further toward a Minority Report-style control system for all of our technology. In a nutshell, the Kinect is a solid platform that will hopefully develop into some of the best and most intuitive games we've ever seen. This is a two-part review -- one of the Kinect controller and one on its bundled-in game, Kinect Adventures.
The Kinect is, as I've already said, an excellent controller. It consists of a laser-emitting, camera-housing and microphone-sporting controller you place centered with your television. This is much the same thing you do with the Wii's bar. But that's all the Kinect is. There's no need to hold a controller or other device with your hands to ensure that the Kinect knows what's going on, as it can detect pretty much the entire human form. It could probably detect dogs too, if someone programmed a game to do so. The key is your hands. Using your hands, you'll interact with the Kinect system via menus. However, you can accomplish some things with voice as well, with some prebuilt commands allowing you access to a Kinect-enabled game by telling the console what to do.
Using your hands and voice go pretty much how you would expect it to -- very smoothly. You'll hover over an action with one of your hands for a moment to let the game know that's what you want to do. You can even use swipe gestures to move things from left to right, a la Minority Report. It's pretty impressive indeed. The only issue is a slight lag from movement to translation on-screen, which can be slightly irritating.
You can set up your avatar to represent you on-screen for games, as always. However, you can also associate your real face to your avatar using the camera in the controller. Once you've calibrated yourself (hopefully in many different lighting scenarios, such as night, morning, day, etc.), the system will automatically be able to pick up who is playing the game at that time and to load the proper profile. There have been reports that those of us with darker skin don't get the same recognition than those with the lighter skin, so the system isn't quite perfect there.
If you don't have a large amount of room to work with, then you may have some issues controlling the Kinect. For example, the first time I loaded it up, I didn't push my couch farther back behind me. Having not done so, I was standing close enough that sometimes the controller couldn't pick up my waving hand above my head because I was too close - my hand went outside the controller's field of vision. Just keep your play area in mind when playing using the Kinect.
Honestly, there's not much else to tell about the controller. This is a very slick piece of hardware that can only get better and better as people have more and more time with it. As stronger games come out and developers use their talents more extensively with it, I think we'll see some truly inspiring and revolutionary things coming our way with video games.
Kinect Adventures is the prepackaged game that comes with the Kinect controller. (What, you didn't think Microsoft was going to send the controller out on its own without something to showcase it, did you?)
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Kinect Adventures is essentially a compilation of minigames designed to showcase all of the different things the Kinect can do. You can play a horizontal version of breakout using your body to knock balls back toward the "bricks." You can use your body to plug holes in a glass cage sitting underwater. You can pop bubbles in space. All of the minigames combined force you to use your whole body to accomplish things and progress in the game.
The minigames start out with some simple and basic tasks and progress to more difficult levels. Levels are scored using pins, and the more pins you earn, the higher your final score will be. You can go without a score, earn a bronze, silver, gold, or platinum pin. If you're really going with gusto for the platinum, you can work up a decent sweat and get a bit out of breath. Especially if you're a more mainstream gamer who isn't in as great shape as he could be -- like me.
Aside from playing the minigames in adventure form, you can free-play specific ones just to have a little fun. Throw in a partner who can play alongside you (provided you have the space in your play area), and you can have even more fun. There's also the option of playing online with a friend or a random person. The online component here is a small add-on and doesn't really have any bells and whistles, so don't expect much of an experience. The game also packs in some time trial features as well, which you might expect in a minigame compilation.
Finally, the game does find a way to show off the usage of the camera. Ever been on a rollercoaster before? Remember after you got off the coaster, you discovered that there was a camera hidden on the tracks somewhere? Usually this camera was located right after a stark decline or sharp turn. I remember these cameras, and I never look good in the pictures taken. Never.
Well, you can experience this kind of thing in Kinect Adventures. A camera icon will appear during the game to alert you ahead of time that your picture is about to be taken. It's great that it warns you, but occasionally it's timed like a rollercoaster's camera -- when the picture is bound to be unflattering. For me, some of the most unflattering photos taken were when I was jumping. Yep, those pictures are deleted as soon as I'm done playing.
Unfortunately, Kinect Adventures really is just what I said it is -- a collection of minigames and features designed to show off what the Kinect can do, but nothing more. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it also doesn't make me want to play the Kinect for hours on end. It makes me want a more robust and not-so-family-friendly game. I want something like Dead Space 2 with Kinect capabilities here. Fun game, but not enough.