Kinect is finally here. Better still, it really works (click here for a review of the hardware).
But how are the games?
After spending a week with seven of its highest profile launch titles (a few hours with a different one each night, more or less) it's clear that certain kinds of games are better suited for this new type of control than others. Dancing and sports games tend to be a lot of fun, while racing games, well, not so much.
There's no single game that makes Kinect a must-own add-on for the masses, but there are enough good ones to make it worth some strong consideration when weighing your motion control gaming options this holiday.
This rump-wiggler from Harmonix-the same studio behind the Rock Band franchise-is the best and most impressive Kinect game I've tried, and I don't even like most of its hip hop, dancehall, and classic funk tracks (artists include the likes of Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Salt 'N' Pepa, and Kool & The Gang).
Each song begins with players learning multiple dance moves individually and in small batches, repeating the actions of a dancer on screen several times to prove they have it "locked." The Kinect sensor functions very well in this capacity, tracking all of the players' appendages and providing feedback on those that aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing by making parts of the dancer's body glow red.
Once you've finished practicing you can choose to either perform the dance by following a carousel of flashcards that prepares players for each new move as it approaches or have a dance-off with another player, each one taking turns in short bursts. Medley challenges come up every four or five songs to test whether you can remember everything you've taken in.
I've only learned moves for about 10 songs so far-and on the easiest of three difficulties (they take a lot of time to master)-but I'm anxious to dive back in for more. It's a great workout, and I feel like I'm learning something that I may be able to put to use one day...you know, if I actually danced in public.
(Keep watch for our full review of Dance Central, coming soon.)
This is the game that comes in the box with the Kinect sensor, and you can tell that Microsoft Game Studios put a lot of time into it. It looks great, is finely tuned, and puts Kinect to clever use.
It's basically a collection of random activities held together by the idea that the player is going on a wild adventure. Some of the things you'll find yourself doing: plugging leaks in a submerged room with your hands and feet; using your entire body to block and hit balls bouncing down a long glass hall with an aim to knock over blocks at its end; jumping, ducking, and dodging a series of rapidly approaching bars as you glide along a moving sidewalk while simultaneously trying to reach out and grab adventure pins; and shuffling around a raft to try to steer it down some rapids, again, jumping and throwing out your arms to reach for pins.
It's strength is in its accessibility. Everything is highly intuitive. Just do what you would do if you were in the situation presented before you onscreen. It also helps that it supports two players playing simultaneously, and that the guided adventures on which players find themselves force us to regularly try new activities rather than getting stuck in a rut.
As with all of the games here, I've not spent enough time with Kinect Adventures to know how long it will take to grow tired of it. However, regardless of its longevity I suspect many families will keep it around as a game they can use to introduce Kinect to visiting friends.
This game from famed developer Rare is essentially Microsoft's answer to Nintendo's Wii Sports and Sony's Sports Champions, and it feels fittingly familiar. It's made up of six activities-table tennis, beach volleyball, bowling, soccer, boxing, and track and field (which is broken into sprinting, hurdles, long jump, discus, and javelin)-and most of them are about what you'd expect. Run in place to sprint, take a step forward and swing your arm to bowl, keep your hands up to block and then throw punches in boxing. You get the idea.
The Kinect sensor performs fairly well for most of these games, though lag becomes apparent table tennis, which actually instructs the player to swing in advance of the ball's arrival. Also, you'll need to make grand sweeps left and right with your arm while bowling in order to add spin since Kinect can't hone in on something as subtle as a twist of one's wrist.