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Review: Kinect (and Kinect Adventures)

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Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect (an add-on device for the Xbox 360) has been heralded as a revolutionary piece of software with literally millions of uses. People have hacked it to work as a virtual mouse (ie. Controlling your computer with hand motions), hacked it to mimic human movements and then transfer them onto a robot (awesome, just awesome) and there is even a hospital in Tacoma who uses it for patient charts so that their doctors can avoid scrubbing in and out multiple times during surgery (which usually takes up to 20 minutes).

But what does it actually play like?

I was recently given a Kinect as a birthday gift and I was excited to finally get behind all the hype surrounding this system and actually get down to business. And I saw that it was good.

Notice that I said good and not great? That was on purpose. Kinect is a decent little system that really does feel innovative. After hearing “you are the controller!” from Microsoft ever since Kinect launched some 8 months ago I thought I was well used to the idea of playing without a controller. Until I put the controller down.

I can’t really explain the feeling you get when you realise this device only needs your input to function (all the way down to recognising you and automatically signing you in). It certainly didn’t feel gimmicky, the only words that come to mind are “high-tech” and maybe “Sci-fi”. Waving your hand at your Xbox does feel a little awkward, but this is more than made up for when it actually reacts and works with very little drag or delay.

Unfortunately for the Kinect, this was it’s biggest appeal for me. Once I got over playing with the menus (left to right, right to left, holy shit I can do it with my hands while sitting on the couch!), I settled down to play the game which ships with Kinect – Kinect Adventures. And was only moderately entertained.

To compare it to something very similar, when I first played the Wii and I popped in Wii Sports I was in suitable amounts of awe. That feeling of wonder when you hit the tennis ball the same way you would in real life and it flies across the screen was pretty universal. The difference with Kinect is that you have already felt that moment of awe when you were navigating the menus to get to the game, once you are in the game the moment has passed. And then there is the fact that Wii Sports was a simple, but great game – I would say it uses the Wii’s motion sensitivity better than any other game ever launched on Wii.

I opened Kinect Adventures hoping for another Wii Sports. Simple, very effective and infinitely replayable.

Instead we get a game in which you are an odd combination between a scout and an international traveller, earning badges by competing in 5 different types of activities – from white water rafting to collecting bubbles in space.

Now that's not to say this isn’t a good game, it can be G rated fun at its finest – made even better by the Kinect taking pictures of you and your friends in some strange poses as you play the games. As opposed to Wii Sports where you can potentially get your score up to the Pro level on each sport and the AI increased at a similar pace, Kinect Adventures offers several maps for each activity with increasing difficulties for each map and a 4 medal system (platinum, gold, silver, bronze). But it seemed to me that all this extra effort was in an attempt to take away from the fact that the games were just too repetitive to be consistently fun. For your first hour or so the game might keep you enthralled, especially playing with a friend, but after that things just get a bit tired.

I’ll try and round this up before I stray completely off point by saying that the Kinect, as everyone has no doubt told you, is an amazing piece of technology that has the capacity for some great games. Microsoft has even said that there will be a time when all Xbox games utilise the Kinect in some form. But, from what I’ve seen, unless you are hacking it, the Kinect is just a superior version of the Wii with a lot less games and a worse launch title.

Is it worth buying as an investment? I would say yes. The potential for this console is practically limitless and just requires a game maker with a little bit of ingenuity to pull it off.

Is it worth buying right now? If your only game is Kinect Adventures I would say not.
If there is something else out there that takes your fancy (I have heard that Dance Central is awesome and I’m sure anyone under 12 would love Kinectimals) then, title depending, it could easily be worth it.

As for Kinect Adventures:

story: 2/5
design: 3/5
variety: 2/5
fun: 3/5
overall: 2.5/5

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