It's been a while since I've added anything substantial to this blog, mostly due to the craziness over on my end. I'm still "working" on my review for Red Dead Redemption, and I've yet to even unwrap Super Mario Galaxy 2. But for now, I do have a bit of gaming news to share so here goes…
So last weekend (yes, I'm a bit slow in reporting this… ) my friend and I were shopping for my wedding suit at Herald Square and decided to hit up Macy's to look around the men's department to see what kind of suits are out there. As we passed by the window display, we noticed that it wasn't adorned with this year's summer's fashion. Rather, we were treated to a display of this:
I was like "Oh…cool! That's the New Xbox 360 with the Kinect… I wonder why they have it up there?" And immediately afterwards, we looked to our right and realized why.
They were giving live demonstrations of Kinect! I was curious to check it out and since the line wasn't long, I figured "Why not?" I asked my friend if he was down, and with a little hit of hesitance, he was like "All right, let's do this," and we got in line.
As we were waiting, we watched the people ahead of us try out a mini-game that involves riding a platform, not unlike a rollercoaster while avoiding the obstacles that pop up. I didn't know what game it was at the time, but when I looked it up later, I found out that the game that was called Kinect Adventures, which is basically a bunch of adventure-themed mini-games. Finally, after 15 minutes of waiting inhot and humid weather, my friend and I stepped inside the kiosk.
First the girl inside the kiosk told us not step beyond a certain point or else we'd be too close for the Kinect to register our movements accurately, which was about 8 to 10 feet (... I think. It was over a week ago so....). So my first impression was not only do people need the extra space to jump and move around, but also people need to clear 8 to 10 feet for Kinect to work optimally. That's a lot of room. So kids, make sure your have the required room to play before you ask mommy and daddy for a Kinect.
Then the game menu screen came up. My friend was player one, and I was player two and we were both represented by two generic avatars on the screen. As we're casually just moving around, the girl told us that the avatars on the screen are moving according to our movements. At first I thought this entertaining and even muttered something like, "Wow… that's kind of cool." While my friend and I were demonstrating this, the girl pointed out the huge zipper in the middle of the screen. She told us in order to start a game, my friend had to glide the zipper across the screen using his avatar, which I thought was a nice detail. However, my friend had a little trouble precisely controlling his avatar's hand. But after a quick few tries, he manages to unzip the game and the loading screen pops up.
While the game was loading, we're shown a few instructional slides outlining the rules of the game. To get the platform moving, we had to pretend like we were grabbing onto a bar in front of us and sort of ourselves forward like one would as a skier preparing to go downhill. My friend, a bit enthusiastic with his gestures, particularly took to this as he got himself nice and low, knees really bent, very much so like a skier. He looked ready to go. On the other hand, I just kinda casually put my arms out stood up. A countdown began, and soon we launched ourselves down the track.
As soon as we were rolling down the tracks, obstacles would pop up from all sides. By dodging these obstacles, you collect coins. Some would pop high, so we'd have to duck down, while others would pop low which we'd have to jump straight up to avoid. Other times, we'd have to step either to the left or right to dodge the obstacles. Occasionally, there would be a bunch of coins in a specific formation that show up during the course of the track and in order to collect all or most of the coins, you either have to stick your arms out to your sides or jump up at the right time. Also, I think twice during the course we had to jump up and down to force the platform down a shaft. Finally at the end of the course, the game tallies up how many coin we each collected (I demolished my friend… with a score along the lines of 498-204).
Once the game ended, the TV screen showed a series of photographs taken of my friend and me by Kinect as we were Playing the game. It showed us jumping, crouching, waving our arms around, etc. The photographs were kind of funny, and it shows how silly and funny Kinect games can be.
Afterwards, my friend and I discussed the whole Kinect experiene and we both came to the conclusion that we weren't really impressed. Sure, it was sort of fun, but overall the pros weren't outweight by the cons. The game itself was really shallow and simply jumping or crouching didn't really add an additional level of immersion. All it really did was make us a bit sweaty (the heat and humidity didn't help either). When I think about it, I really don't want to be uncomfortably sweating during my leisure time in front of a TV doing something as recreational as video games.
However, a shallow game and a sweaty gamer aren't the biggest of Kinect's problems. We both noticed there was something inherently off about how Kinect detects our movements, which was first displayed when my friend tried to start the game by moving the zipper. But when we played the actual game, we noticed there was a very tiny fraction of a second before our avatars appropriately responded whenever we jumped or crouched, etc. While it was only a fraction of a second, our brains immediately recognized that something was wrong. It felt like the "uncanny valley" for motion controls; the avatars on the screen moved accordingly to our movements but our brains just knew something wasn't quite right.
While it was cool to have a chance to try Kinect out before it's out to the public, the whole experience left me with some very deep reservations about the Xbox 360's controller-less device. That's a shame because playing a game without a controller, based solely on the player's movements is a bold step into uncharted territory. However, there's still time between now and when it'll be released to the public so I can still be hopeful that it can correct its shortcomings. But for now, I'm just a little less hopeful than I was before I tried it out.