I didn’t intend to purchase a Kinect for some time. However, there I was, walking reluctantly through Stuffmart, picking up a few random items for my home office. My four year old son, Ranen, had accompanied me. I was digging through various audio connectors when Ranen stopped and said “Daddy! It’s that game!” He was referring to Kinectimals.
I was stunned. He was standing in front of a shelf full of Kinects. I had been under the impression they were sold out nearly everywhere. I stood there, staring destiny in the face. The purchase was inevitable, so I embraced it.
There was very little to setting up the device. I don’t have the newer Xbox, so the Kinect just plugged into the wifi port on the back. Once the device was detected, an application called Kinect Hub was installed. It’s like a minimal version of the main Xbox menus built specifically to utilize Kinect’s features.
There was also a built-in tutorial that both explained how Kinect works and did some initial calibration. It lasted 5 to 10 minutes at most.
I moved our coffee table out of the way, giving us about 12 square fee to work with. That was all the space we needed.
Kinect Adventures is the game that comes with the device. It consists of 5 mini-games and reminded me a lot of the initial offering for Wii. The game takes longer than most games to start up. There is a period of calibration for the device as the game starts. After letting it run through this the first three or four times we started the game, I began to skip the calibration with no noticeable impact.
Ranen and I were able to join in a start playing immediately. Picking up the game for him was much easier than it had been using controllers. (His favorite Xbox game is Lego Star Wars, but he still fumbles with the controls every now and then.)
My 8 year old and 2 year old showed up about this time. We discovered that you can simply swap places with an active player to jump in. So two of us would play, while the rest sat on the sofa (which happened to be just out of range).
The facial recognition struggled somewhat with us switching places. I also wonder if poor lighting affected it as well. There is very little light on our faces when we are facing the TV.
I was impressed with Kinect’s ability to keep track of active players with my children constantly running around. It would temporarily lose a player if someone walked in front of the device (and thus completely occluding a player). However, it would pick them back up almost immediately.
It also struggled just a bit with Ranen’s size. Remember, he’s four. Every now and then, it interpreted him as squatting when he was really standing. It didn’t really affect the gameplay, but it bothered him. My two year old didn’t really play, but the Kinect would occasionally get confused when he would wander into the play area.
The game itself was a hit with the kids and I had a lot of fun as well. I’m sure the game will get old after the novelty wears off, but it is definitely a fun entry title.
Saturday night we had a few friends over sans children. In addition to Kinect Adventures, we played through some of the included demos. The dance game was a hoot and it is definitely on the “to buy” list. We also had fun with the racing game, but I don’t anticipate it having enough variety for the long term. I was impressed how friends who don’t play video games at all were able to pick it up and navigate the games.
The fitness game demo was short, but very impressive. That’s on the “to buy” list as well.
The voice recognition works, but isn’t really that useful. You can navigate Kinect Hub, but that’s about it. Funny enough, it doesn’t recognize my daughter. That really frustrated her.
The default interface is a little clunky. This is a UI design issue though and not a problem with the hardware. For example, the dance game has a great navigation interface for Kinect.
I’m hoping this will improve in future updates.
Overall, I was impressed with Kinect’s ability to cope with the chaos of active kids. It really delivers on what it promised with respect to “you being the controller”. The games I tried felt natural, were lots of fun, and contained many creative surprising uses of the hardware.
I do think Kinect is best suited to family and party games, but there’s an increasing amount of that in my life.
11-09-2010 3:49 PM