Kinect for Christmas
Christmas is nearly upon us as the many, many advertisements like to remind us at every opportunity. Families will all be gathering together once more and entertainment will be direly needed. Sure, there are board games but they're outdated and everyone's played them countless times before, something more modern yet equally as accessible is needed. Enter Kinect, an Xbox 360 peripheral that - provided you're all able bodied - everyone can join in with. It's perhaps unfairly been compared to the Nintendo Wii, the craze of many past Christmases. While Kinect's very nature is similar, its implementation is entirely different as there's no real way that you can fool it. If the game expects you to fist pump the air, you'd jolly well better do it. You can't just shake the controller and lie to it, as Microsoft likes to tell you - you /are/ the controller. Kinect is a fabulous bit of kit oozing potential but who wants impressive technology with no games to play? Exactly.
So we thought we'd let you know exactly what Kinect games that really are must buys for the festive season, and the ones that you should steer clear of at all costs.
Kinect Adventures comes bundled with the Kinect unit but that's not to say that it's instantly forgettable by any means. Offering five main activities that all strongly incorporate the Kinect technology, there's a reasonable amount to do for a 'free' game. The most enjoyable is that of River Rush whereby you control an inflatable dinghy as it rushes down rapids. Dodging from side to side and jumping over ramps is the name of the game and it all feels immensely satisfying. It's fun in a way that pretty much anyone can get to grips with and the controls are responsive throughout. Rallyball offers a Breakout style experience where you must block balls coming towards you in order to bash them into blocks in the distance. It's insane and random in every sense of the word but fun for a time. Reflex Ridge involves travelling across a set of rails on a platform. You have to dodge the various obstacles that come your way while collecting pins. Being able to star jump here is useful but it's still something that less enthusiastic players could get away with. 20,000 Leaks and Space Pop are weaker additions but as an all round package, and the fact it's free anyway, Kinect Adventures isn't bad at all. It's perhaps a shallow affair for the experienced gamer but for a family experience, it's an awful lot of fun.
Dancing is fun, even if you can't dance to save your life. Down a few Sherries on Christmas evening and you'll be ready to break it on down now or something like that. Dance Central is perfect for that. Older relatives might be a little unimpressed by it but don't mind them, they can nod off to sleep for a bit or ramble to each other about the good old days. Dance Central offers over 650 different dance moves and 90 different routines. It sounds scary and it is at first, if you can't dance. However, like Harmonix 's past series (Rock Band), practice really does make perfect. Dance Central offers a lot of support for newbies such as the Break It Down mode which gradually introduces new moves so you're not thrown in at the deep end too much. The tracks on offer are catchy ranging from the likes of Poker Face to Funkytown to even good, old Push It by Salt-n-Pepa. Crucially, Dance Central is terrific fun and a worthy addition as it's bound to entertain everyone.
Kinectimals is cute. Very, very cute. A cynic would immediately argue that so is Nintendogs but that doesn't mean anyone other than children would want to play it. That's a fair point and one that we felt. That is until we loaded up Kinectimals and were asked what cub we wanted to adopt. Those cute, adorable little cubs who would bound happily up to the TV screen, just desperate for attention. Kinectimals might be aimed more at children than adults but that doesn't mean that adults can't enjoy it too. Unlike Nintendogs, Kinectimals isn't just about caring for your cub; it's also about exploring the land of Lemuria and completing numerous contests as eclectic as Piggy Skittles and Boot-a-Crab. It might not be the kind of game that you'll admit to enjoying to your mates, but regardless, it's still great fun for all the family. You can even unlock Halo themed items if you really want a credible excuse for playing it. Fun for all the family indeed.
There's that immediate urge to compare Kinect Sports to Wii Sports but it actually offers more entertaining games than Wii Sports. While Wii Sports offered an exceptionally entertaining bowling game, the rest of the selection was lacking. Kinect Sports offers an all round strong bunch. Bowling is there and it's just as fun as ever but there are also track and field events, table tennis, football, beach volleyball and boxing. Boxing is unfortunately the weakest of the lot with unresponsive controls at times. But the rest are all terrific fun. Table tennis and Football take seconds to pick up but ages to truly master, giving plenty of longevity over the Christmas period. Track and Field is exhausting but the little touches such as being able to wave at the crowd makes it a sure fire hit. It's a polished game indeed, even with some ideal licensed music such as Chariots of Fire and We Are the Champions bunged in for good measure.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
Having eaten your way through a turkey and countless boxes of chocolate, it'd probably be quite wise to try out an exercise based game. While The Biggest Loser has its strengths, its awkward menu system lets it down, meaning that Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is the one to beat. This isn't really a game, it's an exercise program. It puts you through your paces and determines the best course of action for you, just like a personal trainer. It is impressive use of the technology considering you can't cheat it into thinking you're doing something that you're not. It's tiring mirroring the movements on the screen but it works well as a motivational tool. It's not perfect but it's the best fitness program available and certainly saves going out on those winter mornings for a jog or a trip to the gym.
Those are the key, unmissable titles so far for Kinect. There are other games like Dance Evolution and Sonic Free Riders that aren't bad but they're not essentials unless you're desperate for even more Kinect games. If you are desperate, still avoid Joy Ride, Fighters Uncaged and Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part One, they're utterly awful. Enjoy your Christmas full of cutesy animals, competitive sports and eccentric dance moves.