Things seen at E3 can sometimes be difficult to write about, especially new innovations. There is so much going on and vying for your attention and sometimes you are seeing multiple games in one place. Now that I have had a few days to digest everything I saw at E3, I feel like I can do this article justice.
When I signed up for my Microsoft booth tour, it was still being referred to as the "Natal Pods." Of course, by the time I got to the appointment, we had been informed that Natal would now be called Kinect. The pods part referred to the fact that were were in what amounted to a giant fishbowl so everyone walking by could watch us flailing about. I got over my initial embarrassment at this and decided to dance like no one was watching.
The first pod took us to Kinect Adventures. My appointment partner and I had to work together to control a raft going down a rushing river. Leaning our bodies to the right or left would steer the raft in the appropriate direction. Going over ramps, we would jump, giving our raft some air. All the while we were going down the river, various collectable coins appeared and we'd steer towards them to collect them. The Kinect controls worked well here and were very responsive.
Then we moved on to Kinectimals. This was a "game" I had heard a bit about from other journalists and seen demoed a little at the Natal event two nights before. I didn't really have high hopes for yet another pet simulator, but I was pleasantly surprised. Kinecimals was quite charming and the little baby tiger (other types will be available) responded very well to my different poses and commands. He even responded to his name which was adorable. I think this will be a game more suited to kids, but it was definitely fun to experiment with.
Next up was Kinect Sports and a little bit of bowling. I was particularly interested to check this one out to see how it compared to the Wii Sports version, which I am rather fond of. I have to say I was quite impressed and I liked the fact that I didn't have to think about holding down or letting go of any buttons. Of course it helped that I bowled 4 strikes in a row, something I could never do in real life. My appointment mate wasn't so lucky, so at least I knew my strikes weren't some sort of computer set up. The Kinect controls worked exceptionally well here and I'm interested to see what the other games will play like.
Kinect Joy Ride was next on our tour and I think this was probably my least favorite of the Kinect games. Perhaps it was just the nature of the portion we saw which consisted of driving in a half pipe and accelerating at the top to reach some prizes at the top of the pipe in the air. I am not overly fond of driving games with a wheel when the wheel is not mounted. remove the wheel altogether and it makes for a rather strange experience. The steering seemed to work fine, but the accelerate function had you thrusting both arms forward. The harder you thrust, the more you accelerate. Afterwards, I found my shoulders a bit sore from the constant movement.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved proved itself to be the most intriguing of the Kinect games I saw. This seemed like one I would probably use on a regular basis. First we tried out some of the yoga which had what I thought had a great way of functioning. The Kinect camera actually shows you, the player, on the screen, next to the 3D animated yoga instructor. As the instructor does the poses and you follow along and "bones" appear, layered over your image. Once you hit the right pose, the "bones" change from white green, letting you know you got it right. There was also a boxing portion which had you kicking and punching virtual boxes that appeared on the screen. This really seems to be the next step beyond Wii Fit.
Last stop on our tour was Harmonx's Dance Central. There were several new songs available for dancing to like Lady GaGa and the like, but I went old school and picked Funky Town. All you needed to do was follow the dance moves being done by the character on the screen which were really quite complicated in some parts. But, I drew from my vast wealth of gay dancing genes and pulled off a five star rating. I enjoyed this one and I can see how this would be really fun in a party situation although I feel sorry for any downstairs neighbors who might be trying to sleep.
Overall I was very impressed with the Kinect concept. The games I saw employed the new technology with varying degrees of efficiency but there was definitely something her for everyone. What I really want to see is how Kinect works with the Xbox UI itself: voice control, navigating Netflix and the dashboard. These are things I feel Kinect is going to do very solidly and will appeal to players across the board. What I hope we can avoid is a glut of third party party games that are rushed out to take advantage of the Kinect although this seems rather unavoidable. Done right, the Kinect can be a very powerful tool and an interesting new take on game control.