Special: Connect with our thoughts on the Kinect.
Passing the controller will be pass? with Microsoft's newly announced Kinect. The motion-sensing camera, formerly dubbed Project Natal, was demonstrated to
an audience wearing white robes and light-up shoulder pads that radiated multiple colors as a Cirque du Soleil troupe performed.
The invite-only presentation at the Galen Centre was as odd as the camera's new name, but at least most of the motion-controlled games for this gamepad-free accessory made sense. Actors representing the perfect, happy family rose from a couch to flail their arms in one of the first games, Joy Ride
. This kart racer, similar to Sony's recent ModNation Racers, allowed the actors to grasp and turn an invisible steering wheel while an in-game avatar matched their moves lag-free. Subtle gestures, like opening up their hands to show their palms, made the kart use turbo. Stretching their arms in any direction while the kart was in the air made the cartoon vehicle spin and perform flips.
If Joy Ride looks familiar, then you probably recognize it from last year's E3 trailer. We hadn't heard anything from developer BigPark Studios since E3 2009, but that makes sense now, as they were reworking this arcade racer for Kinect.
ran along the same lines as Joy Ride, but involved running rapids and collecting coins in a jungle-river environment. The part that looked the most enjoyable was the split-screen family competition in which the coins were arranged in such a way that each player had to strike unique poses (like a game of Human Tetris) while traveling downstream.
For additional rivalry, there was a boys vs. girls game called Kinect Sports
that featured a lot of Olympic and recreational activities: Boxing, bowling, beach volleyball, track and field, soccer, javelin-throwing and table tennis. It should be interesting to see if two brothers boxing and swinging their fists in the air without gloves results in a new nationwide controversy. Bowling looked like a moodier version of what Wii Sports brought us in 2006, and track and field seemed like it would get tire both your stamina and attention span. We'll have hands-on impressions of these sports and the rest of the lineup throughout the week.
The real excitement came from licensed properties. The mere sight of Tinkerbell and the sound of Disney
music made the audience cheer, even though a game wasn't unveiled. The same pleasant reaction occurred when a Star Wars
lightsaber game took over the event's three jumbo widescreens. The goofy father in the proverbial perfect family waved an imaginary saber and used The Force to slide forward in this on-rails motion game. There's a lot of potential if this Star Wars games releases within Kinect's launch window. Like N64's Shadow of the Empire, the first thing people will ask you is, "Yeah, but have you played the Star Wars game yet?"
The final licensed game came in the form of a dancing game from MTV called Dance Central
. In addition to getting down to hip-hop sans a DDR pad, it slows down the movement so that just about any stereotypical white guy can learn how to breakdance.
allowed players to pet and teach various cats of the animal kingdom, including lions, tigers and
cheetahs. Oh, my, how this game is geared toward little girls. The fact that it was demoed by the "family's" tween told us that it wasn't for the hardcore crowd and would impress us as much as Sony's dud, Afrika. The Kinect Yoga
title appeared to mirror what we've seen from Wii Fit and EA Sports Active... on acid. The trippy presentation aside, it could hold potential if it's more accurate thanks to the super precise Kinect.
The inclusion of video chat wasn't a surprise and was shown off with one girl talking to another girl on separate couches, one right side up and another above her, upside down. These tiny actresses carried on a nonchalant video chat as if things weren't topsy-turvy. One even demonstrated how it was possible to share photos via the chat service.
All of these actors were great at demoing Kinect, while the primitively dressed Cirque du Soleil performers seemed unnecessary and lost during the show. They didn't actually perform any of the motion-based movements and we're wondering if they represented people who lacked motion gaming hardware. A message of ?Controllers are the Stone Age? resonated with us when it came to seeing about half of the demoed games. The event itself, while bizarre to say the least, unlocked some of the mystery of Kinect's name and lineup. We just need to know the price before we can say if it's worth ditching the tried-and-true gamepad.