Games: Kinect Adventures! & Kinect Sports
Developers: Microsoft & Rare
Release date: Fall 2010
Let’s start with Kinect Adventures!, shall we? This Kinect game includes a bunch of mini-games, and I got to step into two of them. ”River Rush” puts you and a second player inside a raft that you must navigate through heavy rapids. Controls are simple: lean left and right to guide the raft and watch out for obstacles like big rocks; lean forward to make the raft go faster; leap into the air with your partner to make the raft jump off ramps to collect tokens for extra points. During the demonstration, the Microsoft rep instructed us to side-step left and right to steer the raft; I’m told it can be navigated either way. The second “adventure” I played was a mine cart obstacle course. While you’re traveling at a steady speed atop a mine cart you must jump (for speed), duck, and side-step to watch out for obstacles like metal padded bars. Collect tokens along the way by configuring your body into various positions.
Kinect Adventures! also includes a “camera moments” that pop up a number of times during the mini-games. A small camera icon alerts you when the game is ready to snap a photo of you in action. At the end of each game you are shown a quick montage of your jumping and spinning motions during peak moments of gameplay. They come complete with captions that relate to the action; if it catches a big jump it might say “impressive air”. Think of it like the pictures that are taken at theme parks during big drops on a coaster. Once the photos are saved, you have the option to share them with friends via email or Facebook. That’s right–now you can embarrass yourself in new ways!
Next up is Kinect Sports. This game is a Wii Sports knockoff for sure, but is it a worthy contender? It packs six sports in total–bowling, ping pong, volleyball, boxing, soccer, and track & field. Within the track & field section I did some running-and-hurdling. Ready for the controls? Run in place to make your avatar go and jump to avoid the obstacle beams. The fast your run in place, the faster your avatar will run on-screen. It’s like using the NES Power Pad but without the pad! This mini-game was a lot of fun, though it was frustrating at times. I had some trouble leaping over the obstacles; it’s all about the timing and I just didn’t catch on. My partner, on the other hand, managed to make almost every jump. Guess I need some practice. Besides that minor issue, I was whole-heartedly satisfied with my experience because it resulted in a great workout! By the end of the race my partner and I were almost out of breath and on the verge of sweating (it was hot in the Microsoft cube!). The results screen shows you a sped up video replay of your running and jumping action and then shows your avatars too with some Chariots of Fire playing in the background. Since I only got to the play a track-and-field game it would not be appropriate to say Kinect Sports is better or worse than Wii Sports. The verdict will have to wait until we all get our hands on the game this fall.
Game: Joy Ride
Release date: Fall 2010
Joy Ride is a simplistic racing game made specifically for Kinect. Setup is easy: Stand up and hold your arms out like your holding a steering wheel. That’s it. You don’t ever have to worry about gas and breaking, the game controls that for you. To steer your car left and right, simply use your hands to steer an invisible wheel in front of you. This might sound kinda lame to you Gran Turismo and Need for Speed hardcore games, but it’s actually a decent amount of fun. Obviously Microsoft is going after the casual set of gamers and late adopters to the modern video game craze with Joy Ride, but with motion maneuvering via Kinect this game will likely get all types of gamers off the couch at least a couple times. Virtual steering works surprisingly well. Beyond just steering around a racetrack, Joy Ride comes complete with speed boosts and in-air tricks. For an extra boost, bring your arms to your chest (still in steering wheel configuration) and quickly thrust them back out to standard position. To perform a stunt, move and turn your body in different ways after you fly your car into the air off a ramp. The car will mimic your body movements; for example, if you lean forward the car will do a front flip and if you spin around the car will spin. You can combine all these different moves to gain bonus points. The game has two modes that both support up to two players: racing and Stunt Mode. In the latter mode, you and another player steer your cars on a half-pipe to pull off as many tricks as possible to collect points. Again, this game is tailor-made for people who rarely play traditional video games, but casual and even hardcore gamers will want to get in on the fun at some point, trust me.
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release date: Fall 2010
Oh this might just the cutest game I have ever put my hands on. And thanks to the Kinect for Xbox 360 requirement, you can take that statement quite literally. Once the game boots up you are prompted to select from over 40 different virtual animals to interact with. I selected a cheetah pre-named Skittles. I’m told that players will have the option to personalize their pets with a name by speaking into Kinect’s built-in mic. After selecting the cheetah I called out “Skittles!” to bring it on-screen. By tapping my knees and calling out its name, Skittles recognized my presence, ran up to me, and left breath marks on the screen. I was able to use simple hand motions to wipe the foggy spots off the screen. If you hold your hands out towards the screen your pet comes closer to you for a scratching session. This part was particularly stimulating; it actually feels like you’re reaching out and petting an animal. Virtual hands appear on-screen to show the motions in real-time.
By holding your hand out for a prolonged period of time in the bottom right-hand side of the screen you can call up a menu. Scroll through the menu Minority Report-style with swipe gestures. Select an activity by holding your hand on an icon for about three seconds. Next up I entered tricks mode where you can make your pet mimic your every move and perform dozens of tricks. When I jumped three times in a row, Skittles jumped higher and higher; the third jump resulted in a Matrix slo-mo perspective sequence. When I held my arms up and stood on one leg, Skittles copied my exact positioning. Then when I fell to the ground Skittles played dead. Very neat!
The last activity in the demo was an obstacle course that involved jumping, running, ducking, and balancing movements to get Skittles from one end to the other. This section of the game plays out more like a workout if you ask me. And of course, to get Skittles to run the course faster continually scream his name.
All in all, Kinectimals is the perfect game for little girls who always wanted a pet but could never have one for some reason or another. With Kinect support, players will have a blast raising their own virtual pet by speaking its name and interacting with it by means of simplistic hand and body gestures. Oh, and there’s this: At the Project Natal Experience, Microsoft reps gave out tiny stuffed animals with scannable codes attached. Instructions reveal that players will be able to hold up their stuffed animals to the Kinect camera and transfer their tangible pet inside the game to play with it. Again, little girls will go crazy over this game. Look for Kinectimals to release alongside the Kinect this fall.
Game: The Fight: Lights Out
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release date: November 2010
Another PlayStation Move launch title is The Fight: Lights Out, or Wii Sports Boxing on steroids. Using two Move controllers you are in control of a street fighter. Though motions are not 1:1 (your on-screen character does not imitate every action you make), the game does a good job at picking up specific boxing moves like punches, uppercuts, and body and elbow shots. The more fluid and deliberate you make your punches the better PS Eye transfers your motions on-screen. By holding down the main Move button on the controller you can control the direction in which your character moves. Predefined “dirty moves” can be called up by pressing the trigger button. Check out that double-hammer fist special move! The game is also physics-based; in the demo this means that you can use one Move controller to push your opponents arm out of the way to make room for a clean punch with the other controller. If you defeat your opponent you get the opportunity to “finish him” with a special move. In the demo I played this involved my character lightly tapping the opponent to make him fall over and pass out on the floor. I’ve also heard that another finishing move will involve blowing your opponent over by physically blowing into the PS Eye’s built-in mic. After the fight is over a results page lets you know how many calories you burned during the length of the fight.
Overall I really enjoyed playing The Fight. When I first picked up the controllers I wanted to beat up my opponent to a bloody pulp with frantic punch gestures and flicks of the wrist. Quickly I learned that fast movements resulted in poor feedback on the PS Eye’s end. Once I settled in and started to strategically produce counter-punches the experience became a whole lot more realistic and fun. I also like the black-and-white style with splashes of red when blood is drawn. With the promise of a character customization studio, a single player campaign, an online multiplayer mode, and the ability to bet on games and use your winnings to purchase in-game items, The Fight is panning out to be a solid launch title for the Move.
Game: TV Superstars
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release date: November 2010
TV Superstars is a party game that places a customized avatar into a number of mini-games based on reality shows. Before you jump into a game show, you are required to customize an avatar using the PS Eye. You step up to the camera and take three pictures of yourself with neutral, smile, and angry faces. After your face is placed on the head of the virtual avatar, you can play around with the size/shape of the head, hair color/style, and skin tone. Then you are asked to record a personal message to go along with your avatar by speaking into the mic (which is built into the PS Eye). Once your character is complete you can jump into one of three game shows, Let’s Get Physical, Frokstar, and Big Beat. Due to time constraints I only played the first game.
Let’s Get Physical resembles a Japanese physical challenge show and places your avatar into the challenges. In the “Wheel of Heroes” mini-game you hold the PS Move controller in one hand a shake it back and forth in a running motion to make the avatar run and jump over obstacles. In “Airheads” you pull back the Move controller to spring yourself out of a slingshot and you have to position the controller to match the silhouette figure on screen. If you match it up correctly your avatar will fly through the window and you’ll move on to more challenging orientations.
Though the customization aspect of this game is intriguing and quite comedic, the controls were a bit irritating. In “Airheads” I had trouble matching the controller position to the silhouette figures. I had to keep reminding myself that PS Move (in combination with the PS Eye) does not track your entire body like Microsoft’s Kinect. The PS Eye camera only detects the glowing orb atop the Move controller. So as hard as you try to position your body to match the silhouette configurations on screen you won’t get anywhere unless the Move controller is maneuvered the right way. Simply put, this game would be a lot more fun if it was made for Kinect, not for PS3.
Game: SOCOM 4
Publisher: Zipper Interactive
Release date: November 2010
The SOCOM franchise is one I hold very close to my heart. After going through an obsessive phase with SOCOM II on PS2, I have been looking for that same fantastic experience to make its way to the PS3. After getting some hands-on time with SOCOM 4 (which is developed by SOCOM II publisher Zipper Interactive), I am excited to share with you that this next iteration in the SOCOM franchise is going to be a winner.
With TV Superstars and The Fight: Lights Out Sony is branching out to the casual set of gamers who just want to grab their Move controllers and jump into a quick and easy to maneuver game. SOCOM 4 exists to prove that even hardcore gamers can get in on the Move action without sacrificing traditional strategic gameplay that SOCOM is known for. With the Move controller in one hand and the Navigation (sub) controller in the other, you control a character called Ops Com who leads a squad into a war-torn Southeast Asian environment. Wait, this doesn’t sound like SOCOM, you’re thinking. Well, it is! In addition to a robust online multiplayer mode that supports up to 32 players, SOCOM 4 packs a true single player story-driven campaign that places you in command of a squad. The demo dropped me into a battle with lots of gunfire. With a tap on the D-pad I can rally the squad around me and direct them where to go. Overall the Move controls add a level of precision that goes way beyond what the DualShock 2 controller allowed for in SOCOM II. The subcontroller’s analog stick moves your character around, and the Move controller is used to line up the reticle, set up a shot, and take it. Although SOCOM 4 will be playable with a standard DualShock 3 controller you’d be crazy not to want to at least try the Move controls. It’s really not a gimmick in this game; after sitting down with it for a nice chunk of time I’m confident in saying that Move support is going to help SOCOM develop into a better and truly immersive game. Calling in an airstrike has never been this much fun.
I’ve been talking so much about the single player and motion control goodness that I haven’t even touched upon the stunning graphics yet! SOCOM 4 looks amazing. The environments are highly detailed and quite destructible. If you shoot at a car window glass will shatter into tiny pieces and the shards will gracefully fall to the ground. All new intense single player; 32-player online gameplay we know and love; precise Move support; and gorgeous graphics–SOCOM 4 will become my next gaming obsession.
Note: Sorry about the degraded sound quality in the video above. Our mic was having some trouble during this interview.