Hands on With Kinect – The First Few Hours

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!


  1. Prayformojo

    Thanks for the impressions; keep them coming, I have no doubt that Kinect over the first few weeks will be great, but what about months later will it be collecting as much dust as my Wii.

  2. We have had connect for about a week (Don’t ask)
    It is impressive, and we have had a lot of fun with Kinect Adventures, and since yesterday Joyride.

    I have to say though so far it has not grabbed me like the Wii did.
    I played Wii till like 6am after picking it up at the midnight launch. There have been several days in the last week that I didn’t play Kinect at all.

    Also, having 2 4.5 year olds…The camera adding and removing players automatically can be a real pain as they run around the house.
    They also get REALLY upset when Kinect decides to add them to the game, but as the opposite sex. And trying to tell a 4 year old how to move her hand over “Change Avatar” the getting her to not leave her hand in 1 spot to long, then leave it there to select something…..This has lead to much screaming frustration.

    For the record, Whoever is closer has navigation controls…So set it all up, then leave the camera area and have the kid step back in.

    We are anxious to try Kinectimals though.

    • It’s because of all the evil!

      Seriously though, the main reason is that the company takes money out of the hands of developers by selling used games the day after (or even the day of) a new game’s launch. It hurts devs, and that’s a bummer!

  3. Digital Distribution = terrible idea.
    Think of all the old Nes and Snes and Sega games, and every other console game out there.
    Now think of all the great PC games you grew up with. You can STILL play them.
    Either you use an older computer, or Dosbox, or dual boot with an older OS.
    Digital distribution says “You can install this 1 game x amount of time then you have to buy it again, I hope my company does not go out of business because then you won’t be able to activate it anymore, And I hope you like this game because if you don’t, there is no way your going to be able to sell it to anyone else”

    I like OWNING my games and media, Not paying full price to RENT them for a short amount of time.

    • The only way I can play most old NES and SNES games is to buy an old system. That’s a perfect example of why digital distribution is better.

      On my PC, I can still get all the games I want at any time I want. Good Old Games, (gog.com) for example, has a huge collection and there’s no DRM. I can reinstall StarCraft as many times as I want thanks to Blizzard’s Battle.net service and Steam keeps a record of all the games I own. Every single PC game I have is a download.

      Honestly, I don’t even have a DVD-rom drive on my computer. There’s no need.

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