So, I’ve spent some time with Microsoft’s Kinect. I played with the bundled games and demos, controlled ESPN with my hand, and even set up the device to recognize my face. How does it work? There’s only one way to find out. All right, you could buy it for yourself, so I guess there are a few different ways. Still, click through and read the rest of this, why don’thca?
The intro to this article – the part you’re reading right now – is being written at 11:00 PM at a Denny’s in Novi, Michigan. One that, sadly, doesn’t have WiFi. I’m surrounded by people enjoying their meals and a particularly raucous family telling each other riddles. It’s a nice atmosphere.
I’m doing this because GameStop’s preorder policy is strange. I prepaid for the Kinect, but I didn’t put the full amount down for ‘Dance Central’. I’m on the list for a review copy, but supplies are limited and I might not get it in time to write about tomorrow. As you might imagine, this Kinect thing is pretty big. Better safe than sorry, right?
Since I hadn’t fully paid for ‘Dance Central’, I got a text from the folks at GameStop letting me know that I should come in at 10:00 and pay the remaining amount. So, what the hell, I did. It means checkout at midnight will be far simpler, but it also means that I’ve got a few hours to kill. I knocked out my ‘Modern Family’ recap and it’s only 11:00. I’ve still got an hour to go.
For the record, yes, I’m buying from GameStop, and no I’m not exactly proud of it. I have all the usual objections – to borrow a phrase from Tim Minchin – to the blind consumerism, desire for savings at the cost of all else and the damage that the used game company does to the game industry. Still, Best Buy wasn’t taking preorders, and since the system’s alleged to be sold out all over the country, I didn’t want to take any chances.
But hey, let’s get on to the important part. Let’s not call this an official review, as the hardware itself can only be as good as the software that makes use of it. The iPhone is proof enough of that idea. Let’s instead call this a hands-on. The rest of this post picks up a few hours later. I’ve only spent two hours with the Kinect, but so far I’m impressed.
After a quick calibration and instructional sequence, my roommate and I got down to some ‘Kinect Adventures’, the game that comes with the system. We had to move our couch back a bit to fit both of us in the game, but the system only needed a few extra feet.
The sensor was responsive throughout the experience, and we had plenty of fun trying to get our on-screen avatars to do different things like dance and slap each other. It was like a digital ‘Three Stooges’. There seemed to be a touch of delay, but it was hard to tell whether this was the hardware’s fault or the software’s.
We moved on to the ‘Kinect Joy Ride’ demo next, and had a fairly entertaining experience, even though the game didn’t really seem to work. Imitating a steering wheel with your hands just isn’t effective. There’s no clear stopping point for the wheel, so I found myself straightening out mid-turn because I had moved my hands too far.
In the end, I won our ‘Joy Ride’ race while my roommate came in last place. I don’t think either of us had a clear idea of what we were doing. This seems like a failure on the game’s part, but it could easily be user error – it was 2:00 in the morning after all.
Finishing up the games, I jumped into ‘Dance Central’ for a half hour or so. I didn’t experience any of the lag I was getting from ‘Kinect Adventures’, so I get the feeling that this is a problem of software and not hardware. Even navigating the menus was simple. The worst part of the game so far is that I’ve got “Poker Face” stuck in my head.
You can’t navigate your normal Xbox dashboard with the Kinect, but you can run through a special Kinect dashboard that features only Kinect compatible games and applications. Flipping between pages is actually pretty satisfying. Though control takes a bit to get used to, it’s definitely not bad.
I took a moment to try out the functionality in the new ESPN app, and Kinect served me well. I had a bit of trouble trying to rewind the game in question, but everything worked smoothly otherwise.
Honestly, I’m really impressed with Kinect. It’s definitely simpler to use for menus than the Wii, though time will tell if the Kinect will function as a controller or accessory for more traditional games. It’ll be exciting to see what happens next.
We’ll have an interesting ‘Dance Central’ video feature that’s going to run for a few weeks that I think you’ll get a kick out of. It’s also the best way I could think of to properly review a game that relies on physical interactivity and purports to make you look like less of a doofus on the dance floor. That’s right, you’re gonna see me dance. Prepare yourself!