Neowin hands-on with Xbox Kinect

Xbox Kinect is so close that you can feel it, and by now most people have heard about it, seen the various online demonstrations, read the latest rumors and have some have even pre-ordered it. Over the last two weeks, I was lucky enough to try Kinect out at two different events, across a variety of different games. It's important to note that Microsoft still claims that all demonstrations are just that, and are not representative of the final product.

There's no point in rehashing old news about Kinect or the announced games, so I'll quickly go over the games that I played (or watched being played) and how I found them.

Kinect Adventures: I'm starting with this title because I'm told it'll be bundled with Kinect upon launch. The first thing that I noticed when I saw this game was that the characters weren't Xbox Avatars. When I asked about this I was told “this isn't a finished product”, but even then I have a feeling that for some reason, they won't be in the final product. This was one that I didn't have time to try out, but watching children and adults play this game was a blast. People were laughing, jumping up and down, and a little boy was actually hiding behind his sister in the 'scary' parts - causing Kinect to momentarily lose him (although when he stepped back out it added him straight back in). Providing that there's enough variety in game modes and levels, this game will be one of Kinect's most successful titles.

Kinect Joyride: It's straight forward really - you just hold out your hands and act is if you're driving a car, leaning to drift. You can pull your arms in, then push out to boost, and you can lean forward to flip whilst in the air or spin around to spin your car mid-air. It seemed polished, and the game was easy to learn and play, taking me only a matter of minutes to get a grasp on the exact body movements required for different actions. The hardest thing for me to master was the boost movement, but even that didn't take long. Hopefully this retails at a low price though, as I'd be unwilling to shell out anywhere near as much for Joyride as I would for Halo: Reach.

Kinectimals: We were told that we couldn't play with this one, but Microsoft was happy to show it off. It was cute, fun and entertaining. The mostly-adult audience at this event were captivated by the cubs as they ran around courses and fell over in an adorable fashion. It was obviously not a finished product, but it was still fairly polished. If you have little kids, or live in a shoebox apartment (like me), this game is a great alternative to having a real pet (particularly a real big cat).

MTV Dance Central: Yes, I played this game, and was unlucky enough to have been caught on camera doing so. As someone with the dance moves of Disco Stu, I found this game exhausting and frustrating - but that's just me. Technically it was fine, the music was fun, it was easy to use and the girls all seemed to love it. There were a variety of sets and a large range of songs (considering this probably isn't a release version either, I'm guessing they'll add some more before release), and Kinect accurately recognized three players and scored us on our dance-moves (or lack of). Menu navigation was different, with player one having to hold his/her arm out to the side (normally Kinect games make you point your arm towards the screen). It'll be a successful title, and it's a great way to get fit (and maybe learn to dance).

Kinect Sports: So, if you're going to show up the Wii, why not also remake its best-selling title? That's pretty much what Microsoft has done with Kinect Sports. It's fun, but nothing I didn't expect. There were a range of sports to play (possibly more than Wii Sports), but it wasn't a finished product so the demonstrations were limited to the basics. It'll be popular, but it's not as new and exciting as the other products.

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved: Ubisoft's Your Shape was also on hand to play, and although I saw a few people having a go at it, it wasn't an event drawcard. It'll definitely sell well, just as Wii Fit has, but it's not the kind of game you'll pull out when your friends are over for Friday night drinks.

All up, Kinect was a fun and very polished product - especially considering that none of the games shown were final products. It accurately recognized users and their movements, regardless of their shape or size, and quickly adapted when a user came into the game or left the game. Microsoft is definitely onto a winner here, and it's going to take some kind of magical release from Nintendo for them to keep the 'fun' crown (and I don't think a Wii3D will do the trick).

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