The Kinect Hub is the Kinect’s own dashboard. This is where you can scroll through a selection of tiles and pick options armed with just your hands as if conducting a main menu orchestra. The speedier alternative to this is to use the voice recognition to select options, providing it works that is. Each of the options are kept to simple words such as; Next, Previous, Dashboard and Cancel. When voice recognition is activated each of the tiles at the menu of the Kinect Hub are accompanied by a name underneath them, you can then enter into a tile’s content by reciting this name.
The Kinect Hub consists of three side-scrolling menus. The first of which is the middle menu where you will find your game related options and where you can sign in to your profile. If you choose the “previous” option or scroll left you then arrive at the menu that contains avatar options and achievements. You can also change your Kinect settings here - voice recognition and facial recognition can be easily modified if need be. The menu to the furthest right currently consists of applications such as Zune, Last.FM and Video Kinect. It is pretty much given that in the future you will be able to download more applications for this menu.
For the purpose of this review, most of my opinions are based around my experience whilst playing the launch title, Kinect Adventures. I did play two other titles designed for the Kinect and will talk about them later.
Kinect Adventures is the release title that comes bundled with the Kinect peripheral. Much like Wii Sports, Kinect Adventures consists of a variety of fun activities that utilise the Kinect’s capabilities. It provides a decent introduction to the technology as well as a few insights of what to expect from the Kinect in the future. Kinect Adventures is developed by Good Science Studio, which is an in-house department of Microsoft Game Studios. As can be expected, Kinect Adventures serves more as a tech demo rather than an actual video game, but it is fun nonetheless.
Kinect Adventures consists of five different activities that all experiment with the Kinect’s range of possibilities. My favourite activity that I think proves what the Kinect is capable of is called Rallyball. The premise behind Rallyball is that you have to smack a ball into targets and break wooden blocks while trying to keep the ball in play and not let it pass you. The game takes place within an indoor tunnel made of glass, you smack the ball to start and you have to direct it towards the targets to gain more balls to hit. To completely clear a level and get more points you have to break everything in front of you and each game consists of three rounds. As you progress through the rounds and gain more points you collect pins (this is essentially the points system), the more pins you acquire, the higher the rank you gain. The scoring goes from bronze to platinum. After every game you are shown pictures of yourself that the Kinect has taken, and I have to admit that they can be pretty hilarious when you see how much of a complete and utter fool you looked whilst playing.
Kinect Adventures proves the Kinect can work really well. In Rallyball the Kinect tracks your movements almost perfectly with only slight latency between you and your on-screen avatar. This is a game where it can become pretty crazy on screen, with balls flying all over the place you are forced to react pretty fast to hit them back. I was highly impressed with how well it actually worked. I expected to be getting frustrated at delays and omissions in translation to the screen, but much to my surprise it was almost perfect. Other activities available to play involve jumping and ducking, and even when the later levels get more intense with an increased number of obstacles the Kinect never gives in and keeps up with your movements proficiently.
Throw your sofa away
The Kinect needs space, a lot of space. In fact, the Kinect requires you to stand between 6 and 8 feet away to function at all. I have quite a small living room and I had to completely rearrange my furniture to play, and once I did I still only had the minimum amount of room required to play. If you do not have a space large enough for the Kinect or cannot rearrange your furniture you might want to reconsider purchasing one. Upon launching Kinect Adventures your distance from the device is measured and you will be told to move backwards or forwards accordingly. This is a huge hindrance for anyone playing the Kinect and is one of its major disadvantages. Even if you can stand the required distance away you still need to be able to move sideways - for me this was impossible and I was on occasion clambering over my sofas to play some activities. If you move too close to the Kinect you will not get away with it. The ever watchful eye of the Kinect will recognise the breach of its minimum distance instantly and will promptly tell you to move back and automatically pause your session during most games. Plain and simple, if you do not have the room to move freely then do not get a Kinect, it will just be a waste of your money. Although it is at times possible to get away with playing some games that do not require moving all of your limbs, you are still going to require a large space to play most activities.