Just like the Wii when it was first released, Kinect has a lot to prove in the eyes of non technology savvy consumers . The Playstation Move has established its niche: it’s a more precise Wii-Mote – that’s a pretty easy concept to grasp for all of the millions of households that already have a Wii.
But the Kinect features something a bit different – no tactile control whatsoever – in fact, everything is controlled by your body, which is read by a giant camera. Naturally this would create skepticism, followed by shouts of “it probably doesn’t work”. Fortunately for Microsoft, it does.
Microsoft has chosen to showcase their new technology through their packed-in version of Wii Sports: Kinect Adventures. Adventures features five games – 20,000 Leaks (a game that requires you to plug, well, leaks with your body), River Rush (a rapids game where you move the raft with your body), Rallyball (handball), Reflex Ridge (an interactive obstacle course), and Spacepop (a strange bubble popping game of Nintendo-esque “Pose Mii” proportions).
I’ll give it to you straight – the games are extremely hit or miss – but when they hit, they hit pretty hard in terms of fun factor. As previously mentioned, all of the games are played entirely with your body – no controller needed – not even for the menus. Just about every appendage will work in most of the games: including your arms, legs, hands, and feet. Rallyball is an excellent example of how interactive the Kinect gets when it scans your body, as you can headbutt incoming balls, knee them, kick them with your feet, or simply slam them with your palm like a volleyball.
Out of all the games in the lot, Reflex Ridge will require just about every muscle you have in addition to said appendages. A small ramp will rocket you across a mineshaft-esque obstacle course while you duck, jump, and dip side to side to avoid various hurdles and obstacles. There are nine different tracks, ranging from beginner, to intermediate, to expert, and the final few tracks will give any out of shape gamer a pretty tough time.
In fact, RR is the pinnacle of a Kinect tech demo, as it’s pretty much free form, and makes use of the concept of “doing whatever you want with your body”. This particular adventure is easily the most fun out of the pack – I found myself playing it constantly until I was exhausted, for hours at a time.
River Rush isn’t as interactive, since all you can really do is lean and jump, but it’s a blast to play with a friend side by side, due to the fact that you have to work together to collect as many points as possible. Despite the fun factor, you’ll notice a bit of lag in this game in particular – that’s really more of a design issue however, as the other games aren’t as noticeable in this regard.
Space Pop and 20,000 leaks really feel like throwaway games. “Leaks” is pretty boring, and feels right out of a Scooby Doo movie as you’re contorting your body to plug up water leaks – children may find it exciting, but odds are adults will want to skip it. Space Pop is basically a cheap, “Chuck E’ Cheese” type game that forces you to collect a bunch of bubbles for points – you can flap your arms to fly, and walk “forward and backwards” to access the foreground, middle ground, and background.
The problem is constantly flapping just needlessly tires out your arms, and the different planes are very hard to differentiate from, which causes you to miss a lot of bubbles – overall, it adds up to pretty poor game design.
So enough about the games – how does the technology itself work? Well, the system isn’t as finicky as you’d expect once you’re in front of it. It gives you ample space to fit two people (provided you actually have the space available in general), and the hardware works great in either well-lit or dark situations. The “Guide Button” is accessed by holding your right arm to your side, and your left arm out for about four seconds – it’s pretty simple to do, and you never access it by accident.
If you so choose, you can also use the Kinect’s microphone to bring up a menu: just say “Xbox” to bring up a menu. If you wish, you can have Kinect scan your body in different poses to “remember” your body shape so it automatically logs you in under your appropriate profile – don’t worry, it only has to do this once.
Kinect Adventures is a decent showcase of what the device can do. A few games feature a bit of lag, and others aren’t quite so fun, but there is no disputing that the Kinect has a ton of potential. Ultimately, Adventures does a great job of “wowing you” in terms of the technology, but hardcore gamers will want to wait a bit until there’s something a bit more substantial before dropping the rather sobering $150 on Kinect.
Kinect Adventures' graphics aren't too impressive, but they're much more flattering than most tech-demo titles; Wii Sports included.
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Kinect Adventures is surprisingly responsive, although there are a few technical hiccups every now and then due to seemingly lazy programming. The main problem is that most of the games will have you doing very similar bodily motions.
The sound effects will grate on you after a while, but the soundtrack is mostly catchy.
If you have family and friends that are itching to see Kinect, you'll get tons of playtime out of Adventures simply by showing off the new tech. If you're just a lone thrill-seeker, there isn't too much variety here.
Kinect Adventures succeeds in providing a worthwhile tech demo, although unless you take a liking to two of the game's five activities, you'll most likely become bored after a few days.