Game-wise, it’s impossible to ignore how blatantly the Kinect launch line-up is aping the Nintendo Wii. Running through all of the currently available games feels like nothing more than playing a set of HD remakes which inexplicably require more room to work properly.
Kinect Sports is just Wii Sports. Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is just Wii Fit. Kinectimals is just Nintendogs. Kinect Joyride is just Mario Kart. Kinect Adventures is an amalgamation of all the other shovelware titles which plague the Wii. Dance Central is just Just Dance. Kinect’s second biggest issue is that, once you get down to the actual games themselves, then there’s a startling lack of innovation on show.
To be fair to Kinect though, just because the available titles feel like prettied-up versions of things we’ve seen before, that doesn’t much stop them from being fun. MTV’s Dance Central, which tasks players with copying on-screen dance moves using the camera to monitor accuracy, is a lot of fun when you’ve got a few friends to join in. The tracklist isn’t all it could be, but we’re cynically, quietly sure that will soon be fixed via downloadable packs.
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Ubisoft’s Fighters Uncaged continues the trend of third-party titles best showing off Kinect’s capabilities too. A basic fighting game, we found it to be one of the most exhausting things we’ve done since we last went to the chip shop – punching, kicking, sweeps and headbutts are all fair game in this fun, though shallow brawler. The shallowness arises simply from the fact that punching and kicking is all you do; there’s no way to move around your enemy, nor extra modes to explore beyond basic fights.
The first party titles, on the other hand, don’t hold up to scrutiny nearly as well. Kinect Joyride is the best of the lot, but the otherwise simple and straightforward kart racing experience is spoiled by the concessions that have been made to make it fit a buttonless interface. The game automatically handles acceleration and deceleration for you, leaving you to just steer by holding your hands out in front and miming steering wheel actions. Extra depth is added through the addition of stunts, but even then Joyride will automatically line you up for a safe landing. Kinect Joyride is essentially an on-rails racing game.
Kinect Sports is the most painfully dull of all the games though, with the Football mini-game standing out as easily the worst of all the mini-games on the disc. All you do is kick or position your body in the line of fire, with matches unfolding at a painfully slow and boring pace. There are some good games in the Kinect Sports mix – Table Tennis, for example – but the combined collection is nowhere near worth the £40 price tag.
Kinect Adventures for Kinect
The same can be said of Kinect as a whole in fact; it has a number of highlights, but it frankly isn’t worth the price. We played every single one of the currently available games and were left with similar sentiments that, in our experience, most gamers now have of the Wii. It’s great to wheel out when you’re having a get together, but it’ll likely lay gathering dust for most of the time and the short term fascination that comes immediately after buying one isn’t really indicative of actual quality.
To a degree, Kinect’s line-up of launch titles reflects this casual, party-orientated focus. Dance Central is an ideal party game and even Kinect Joyride can appear to radically increase in quality when played multiplayer. These games are fun. We’ve had a good time playing them together in our lab.
The problem arises though when you have to reconcile that fun, which you know will likely be short-lived, with the high price that Microsoft has stuck on the Kinect controller. We really like playing Dance Central, but we also know that we aren’t going to be playing it come the end of the week – and if we do then it’ll be a rare, drunken event. That means we find it hard to justify recommending Kinect, or think of it as anything other than a me-too gimmick – an opinion we’ll stand by until Kinect’s awesome potential is realised. Or until Microsoft give it a more reasonable price point.