The Xbox 360’s Kinect camera sold eight million units in the first 60 days after its release. This was enough for the Guinness World Record keepers to dub it the “Fastest Selling Consumer Electronics Device.” By March 9 of this year, Microsoft had shipped ten million Kinect units. I guess the question is can it live up to those numbers? My first impressions are good, but only the quality of games released for the peripheral will determine the answer so it’s really too early in the game to say. Most of the coolest stuff you can do with a Kinect is only being done in labs at NASA and MIT and right now we’re kind of in a lull between the Kinect’s launch titles and the second wave of releases. That’s not to say that there aren’t any solid games available now however. Here’s a quick look at a few I’ve gotten some time in on.
Kinect Adventures – The Kinect’s pack-in title is a fun collection of five mini-games. Two of them are merely so-so, but the other three are great fun. There’s a wild rafting game where you control your boat by stepping left and right in an effort to collect as many tokens as possible. An obstacle course that requires you to jump, duck and sidestep various obstructions in your path, all the while stretching out arms and legs to collect those same tokens. The best of the bunch, however, is Rallyball. Featured in a lot of the Kinect’s press, Rallyball could best be described as a version of the classic Breakout in which you bounce a ball off a paddle to break bricks. Only in this iteration, your body is the paddle. Hitting multiball is a gas, especially for an observer, as the player is likely to flail about wildly trying to keep as many of the balls in play as possible. The player doesn’t miss out though as the Kinect camera takes occasional photos during play and shows them to you at the end of the session so you can see how ridiculous you look in mid air. Great for parties.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved – Essentially the polar opposite to Body and Brain, Your Shape is all about the physical activity. In fact, Your Shape isn’t so much a game as it is a full fledged workout routine complete with an automaton personal trainer to show you the moves. The routines are customizable and a full range of toning and cardio activities are represented. The object, aside from burning calories, is to stay in sync with the trainer’s movements as much as possible for the required number of reps. Those with living rooms that only meet the Kinect’s minimum space requirements may have difficulty keeping in sync on some of the exercises, particularly the lunges which can cause the long-legged to leave the Kinect’s range of view. 2/5 as a video game, but would score much higher if I were ranking it as a simple workout.
Body and Brain – Consumers that may mistake this for a Brain Age game should be forgiven, as Dr. Kawashima is the creator of Brain Age and this title as well. Body and Brain plays much the same, testing the player in a number of different categories such as reflexes and math through several unique minigames. One in particular requiring you to keep Pac Man away from ghosts with one hand while tracking an independently moving piece of fruit with the other threatened to break my brain on more than one occasion. Those of you looking for a physical workout be warned. Since most of the minigames are timed to about 60 seconds you won’t work up much of a sweat although your brain might be a little sore afterwords, especially on the higher difficulty levels.
Kinect Joy Ride – The weakest of the titles here, Joy Ride seems like it should have been a natural fit with the Kinect. You use your hands out in front of you to steer. Drawing your hands closer to your body fills your boost which you can then deploy by punching them forward. A relatively simple formula that was admittedly fun for a track or two. Joy Ride stales quickly however. All braking and acceleration is done automatically which degenerates the whole affair into something that, for a mature gamer, requires little skill and generates little fun. My 4-year-old did not tire of the process nearly as quickly as I did however.
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Overall what I’ve seen with the Kinect is mostly fun. It’s great for parties and my kids have a blast with it. With titles like Carnival Games, Michael Jackson: The Experience and Child of Eden right around the corner, the world’s “Fastest Selling Consumer Electronics Device” might just qualify as a “must buy.”