A few days ago Microsoft launched their new "controller-free gaming entertainment experience" for the Xbox 360, the Kinect. Bundled with their launch game Kinect Adventures, Kinect is selling for around $150.00 and requires at least 6 to 8 ft. of distance away from the TV (!) to play. I don't have too many extra funds these days and I have about 4 ft. of leg room in front of my couch, so for now the Kinect won't be rubbing elbows with the rest of my gaming consoles. That said, I had a chance to play a little thanks to my friend Greg, and despite some initial skepticism, after playing I was pretty much sold.
We each popped open a beer and got cranking with Kinect Adventures, a series of fun but short mini-games that introduce the main attraction of the Kinect system. These games require you to twist, turn, jump and duck through challenges. While playing, the game will take intermittent photos of your moves, and I gotta admit. Kinect has got some guts to consistently rub it in your face how silly you look when you're playing, but it's a wonderful feature (as long as you have all of your clothes on), and feels a lot like getting that photo taken at the end of a roller coaster. We had a lot of fun with that one, and it's also neat to finally see mini-games like this in full blown HD.
After re-fueling on pizza, Greg popped in Harmonix's Dance Central, the only game that really caught my attention when they were demo-ing the Kinect during E3. Since I have some prior dance experience (yes, I've done plenty of musical theater in my day), Greg made sure the game was at the hardest level when I jumped in. It was pretty hardcore. Each of the songs have training modes where you learn all of the individual moves to the routine (which was hard) and then you have to combine them all on the fly while performing (which was also hard). Despite the challenge, I managed to rock-my-bod-ee to Lady Gaga, Salt-n-Pepa, and more. I would buy this game in a heartbeat if I had a Kinect.
Ultimately Kinect Adventures still feels a bit gimmicky in a Wii mini-game kind of way, but when Dance Central takes it up a notch you can begin to see the potential for all kinds of new titles that uses your body as a controller. There are also occasional delay issues with the Kinect and your movements, but not enough to really degrade the playing experience in my opinion. If you have a good amount of space in your living room and an Xbox 360, this would be a pretty cool toy to have.
At the end of the day though what impressed me the most I think was the Minority Report-esque interactions with the Xbox 360 menu screens. You wave to the Kinect to target and recognize you, and then focus and swipe your hands to pan through options on the dashboard. That experience felt very futuristic to me, and I'm excited to see what the Kinect and Kinect games and apps will provide in the future.