Well Kinect is here, and it’s taking Microsoft in a different direction from Sony and Nintendo when it comes to motion controls. In fact, it doesn’t have any controls. It’s just you, your body, and a sensor that makes your body the controller. Of course the two big questions on everyone’s mind are does it work and is it any fun? Well, we’ll try and explore the answers to those questions this week on the HJ Playbox as we spend some quality time with Kinect. On of our early experiences was with the demo for Kinect Joy Ride. Can a racing game be any fun when you’re just standing in the middle of the room holding…nothing? Well…
Depending on how serious you are about racing games will depend on how much you enjoy Kinect Joy Ride. It’ll also depend on how serious you are about tight controls in a racing game. That’s not to imply that the controls are busted in any way, they actually work remarkably well, but you won’t have the same responsive, precise control that you get with a controller in hand. After the fun of the novelty of simply holding your hands out in front of you to grip an invisible steering wheel has worn off, you’ll start to notice that you can’t quite take turns as tight as you’d like or boost precisely when you want and so forth. The controls just feel a little loose…which I guess makes since basically the controls are air.
So you hold your hands out and grip an invisible steering wheel. You can also drift around corners by bumping your hip out to the side, you can boost by pulling your hands close to your body and thrusting them forward, you can do stunts by crouching and you can use items ala Mario Kart by just putting your hand out to the side. As I said, this all works fine for the most part, but just doesn’t feel very precise or sharp.
Graphically the game looks bright and colorful with sharp, crisp graphics. It has a very “Wii” like look to it, which is true of a lot of Kinect games right now. Obviously Microsoft is trying for that same target audience as the Wii and hence figure their game should look them. I suppose that’s fine, but I kind of wish the look of the Kinect games was a bit more distinct. I guess that’s hard to do when the stars of many Kinect games are Mii-too’s. The sound is just as bright and peppy as the graphics, so the overall package is very happy, bright and “casual friendly”.
Speaking of that crowd, how do they enjoy the game? Well, I got my eight and five year old to try it to find out. My five year old had a little trouble maintaining the coherence of her imaginary steering wheel, and I noticed a tendency for both of them to lean with their bodies more than steer with their hands. The imprecise controls caused some problems because when their car didn’t do what they wanted, my girls would immediately overcompensate by doing the exact opposite action without ever giving the game time to respond. So things were a little chaotic, they got frustrated every now and then that they couldn’t get things to work the way the wanted, but they had fun and especially enjoyed looking at the pictures at the end. (For some reason Kinect likes to take photos to remind you just how ridiculous you look playing games without any controllers. Thanks.) So the kids enjoyed it but really couldn’t get it to work quite right; but perhaps that will change with practice. They actually did better when I gave them the Mario Kart Wii steering wheels to hold.
The full game offers a bigger variety of game-types and challenges than the demo, which is good because just racing around with loose controls would get old pretty quick. Kinect Joy Ride is a fun if imprecise Mario Kart wannabe. It does a good job of demonstrating the potential of Kinect, but also shows some areas where controllerless games can fall short. As to whether or not this game should be a part of your Kinect collection, it’s probably better as a rental, but that’s just based on the demo.