Gaming’s next Kinection

In the last few years we’ve seen videogame controllers change as things like the plastic instruments of “Rock Band”, touch screen styluses and Nintendo’s movement detecting Wii Remote have all been put in your hands.

Now rather than hold things in your hands, the next step is to use them – and your whole body – as the controller itself. It’s the idea behind the new Kinect system for the Xbox 360 where a camera detects your moves in 3D.


A selection of games for Kinect, Microsoft's new way of playing games. Photo: Microsoft

The combination of a depth-detecting camera and body-sensing software means that you can jump, run, wave, tilt and move around in more immersive and sophisticated ways than any “EyeToy” style games that have been released before.

At first seeing your movements represented properly in game feels slightly disorientating, but only as it’s actually working quite well. As playing it feels completely different to anything else, the games are best when they’re new experiences too. Here are five of the titles coming out when Kinect launches in November.

Kinect Adventures
This features a series of mini-game adventures where you take on a variety of obstacle courses such as jumping over poles or side-stepping past moving pads in what feels like a much safer home version of “It’s a Knockout”.

The standout mode in the game is a white water rafting style challenge in which the goal is to move around to control your raft as well as jumping to collect a series of coins.

It’s really enjoyable as there’s real physicality in playing the game and the biggest challenge is getting used to actually moving around a fair distance rather than just leaning and tilting.

The game also takes a few pictures of you throughout the levels before playing them back at the end so you really get an idea of how daft it all is. There’s even a function to upload them straight to Facebook, which is either a brilliant thing or the worst idea ever.

Kinect Joyride
Technology has allowed recent racing games to be more realistic than ever with precise replications of real life physics with impeccable controls. “Kinect Joy Ride” is the complete opposite.

It’s more of a kart racing game using a nonexistent, floating steering wheel. Leaning heavily side to side adds drift, and a sharp movement forwards activates a boost. The controls are fairly intuitive, but some of the limitations of Kinect show through as even when you ‘push’ hard the boost doesn’t always work.

When subtle movements are being picked up for the direction, it just feels odd to have to overemphasise the boost moves. The sensor also gets confused if your hands and arms cross over (like you might on a real wheel) making this game flawed, but fun.

It very much plays on the cartoon-like art style as you can perform over the top tricks in mid-air by moving around and there’s a separate mode dedicated to performing and chaining different stunts to get points.

Kinect Sports
This is a game that proves that having Peter Dickson, the voice of “The X Factor”, as the announcer for the Olympics and all athletic replays using the song “Chariots of Fire” would be a huge improvement.

Developed by UK studio Rare, this is in no way the Xbox equivalent of “Wii Sports” with the collection consisting of football, volleyball, bowling, ping pong and boxing.

Bowling works really well in Kinect as it really benefits from the increased accuracy. It works as expected by just picking up and throwing an imaginary ball with the player’s angle, speed, spin and position all perfectly accounted for.

The hurdles mode allows you to have the all the fun of a cardiac arrest at your own convenience. Just run as fast as you can for a minute or two, on the spot, making sure your knees go as high as possible and occasionally jumping. I’m sure my PE teacher told me I’m supposed to do warm up stretches before exercise.

Kinectimals
You may have noticed that all the games so far cleverly have “Kinect” in the title. Sadly it’s been shoehorned in to this one too. Aimed at children, “Kinectimals” is a 21st century version of the “Tamogotchi” where you get to train and play with an adorable tiger or lion.

It’s your chance to stroke, rub and tease a ferocious beast from the comfort of your living room. But not from your sofa, because none of the titles coming out for Kinect allow to you to play whilst sitting down.

The game mostly involves petting your cute little pussycat as well as taking it on agility courses where you have to run and jump (yes, you – instead of your lazy leopard). It’s not that exciting, but is fine for kids.

Dance Central
From the original creators of “Guitar Hero”, Harmonix’s “Dance Central” is the surprising standout of the Kinect lineup as you have to mimic the actions of an onscreen dancer in a bunch of popular tracks.

It works better than any dance game on the Wii as it’s really clear what to do and there’s clear feedback as to how well you do. It’s very easy to play – just dance. But “Poker Face” is the Lady Gaga song that can be played.

You might need to be significantly intoxicated to get past the shame required to play this in front of other people, but it’s worth playing.

The verdict
After trying Kinect it really feels completely different, so it’s important the games are whole new experiences too. However, too many of the launch titles feel like they’ve not got much depth to them.

Unfortunately this new way of gaming comes at a price – and it’s quite steep. Kinect costs £130 and includes a copy of Kinect Adventures. If you don’t have an Xbox 360 already that price really adds up.

There’s still a few technical difficulties, but it does genuinely work and it’s certainly great fun to play. It’s especially good for social gaming, even if you can only have two players at once, and it’s perfect for a party.

Kinect is released for the Xbox 360 on November 10th, so if there’s an increase of people making exaggerated, erratic movements around then, it’s either become really popular or there’s been a breakout at Bedlam.

Comments are closed.