Kinect is the toy that Microsoft’s Xbox division is resting their future on. Yes, they have the Gears and Halo franchises, but Kinect is their shot at re-invigirating their Xbox sales. I bought into the system, and I purchased it on release day. Was it a good purchase? Was it worth the $150 price point? Was it as effective at capturing motion as it stated? In other words, was it as good as advertised? I will answer most of those questions below.
Setting Up Kinect
Kinect was rather easy to plug in, but after that, wow was setup a bear. Not a bad bear, but still, it was kind of an issue. First, when you turn on Kinect, there is an immediate detection and update that needed to be download. Once that was complete, and it was completed pretty quickly, the Kinect sensor went through a host of calibrations in order to determine if you have the right kind of atmosphere in order to play. All in all, it took around 20 minutes to setup everything. Not too shabby considering what this thing is supposed to do.
Next came the KinectID calibration. This was actually a fun thing to do (I’ll get to a cool part of KinectID in a little while). What KinectID is a link of your body and face to your Gamertag. I have to admit that it was pretty nifty and painless process. They basically ask you to move from one square on a grid to the next and make a pose. Once it has enough of them, then you are setup. I had three profiles to setup (me, my wife’s and my mom’s…more on that later as well). Overall, it took some time to get setup. But I think it was worth it.
Also, I should mention that it takes a lot of physical room, so if you have a small house, Kinect is not going to work as well for you. I am very fortunate to have a very large living room and was able to toy with it very well, but there were times when I wished I had an extra foot or two.
I knew that this was going to cost me some serious coin when I showed my wife the demo of Skittles and the Kinectimals game and she LOVED it. Well, I had to get that game because you know the saying “A happy wife is a HAPPY WIFE.” So I got that game, and of course Kinect Adventures came with the sensor. But for my mom, I decided to get her Kinect Total Fitness. So after that monstrous setup, I decided to pop in a game and play. First up? You guessed it, some co-op action. Kinect Adventures. I pop in the disc, set everything up, begin to play and DISC UNREADABLE. WHAT!?!?!?!?
I was very worried that my disc drive was going bad (the issue is probably a bad disc, but I’ll see about that tonight when I trade it in for another copy of the game), so I tried to play Kinectimals, and success. We had no problem with that game at all. In fact, my mother, a person that on Tuesday referred to my Xbox as a “gaming machine” jumped in and started playing with Skittles. And she had a blast.
Now, here is where the cool thing about KinectID came in to play. When my wife was having problems using her hands to move things around, I asked her to sit on the couch so that I could show her how it was done. In Kinectimals, when there is a change in players, there is a flash on the screen that looks like a rock falling into a pond, and (get this) it logged me in automatically into Xbox Live. I didn’t press a thing. All together, Kinectimals looks great. There is very little lag in the motion sensor, and the game just has a polish too it that I haven’t seen in a game since Viva Piñata. At first, I thought Rare did this game, but I was wrong, but that does not take away from how well that game looks and plays.
I have to say that I was very surprised to see my mother take such an interest in Kinectimals. I know one of the biggest knocks on Kinect is that it is for the casual gaming market, but really, that is the biggest area that the Xbox needs help in. And I think Kinect might actually be that bridge that gets MS and the Xbox over that hump. Seeing my mother play catch with Skittles will be a memory that I have for a long time.
The Controller vs. The Sensor
There were a few bad things about Kinect that I am forced to tell you. One, the sensor isn’t perfect. When it says to get into a certain pose, you get in that pose, but your Avatar doesn’t always do it. Strange, but that doesn’t take away from the functionality.
In Kinectimals, there was a driving mini-game and although I thought I knew how to drive, it made me feel a little awkward. I was leaning at all sorts of odd angles to get it to work, and my hands just didn’t feel like there were in the right place.
If you have one hand directing the hand on the screen, and the second hand comes up reflexively, then it will throw off the hand/mouse pointer on the screen.
There is a slight delay in how Kinect senses you’re jumping or moving. Take walking for example. We may lift our leg to move forward, but our Avatar’s just kind of float in that direction. Very weird to see.
Kinect is very accurate in broad movements, but when it comes to the smaller movements, it’s really hit or miss. Would I say that this is completed software and hardware? No, but it is a very large first step. And let’s face it, this is (as a podcast that I listen too pointed out) very much Generation 1 hardware and software. Give it a couple of years, and I would like to think that Kinect will be really, really worth it.
Was it a good purchase? Right now, yes. Seeing the joy on my wife’s face, is well worth the purchase. Having a bad disc come with the sensor isn’t good, but I’ll chalk that up to a bad disc and move forward. Was it worth the $150 price point? I think the $150 has always been very attractive. Some say it’s $99 with a $50 game, but I disagree. It’s a $150 piece of equipment with a free game. But well worth it right now. Was it as effective at capturing motion as it stated? Like I stated before, it is very accurate with big motions and gestures, but the smaller motions just confuse the software.
In other words, was it as good as advertised? This is where I have to say no. It’s been advertised as a Wii and Move killer (which is never a good thing to market a product as) and it is anything but. Gamers can play the Wii and Move in smaller spaces while sitting on the couch. But Kinect does deliver on the fun family games, which the Wii and PS3 have lacked in the past year or so. And at least one game, Kinectimals is well done.