2011: A Kinect Odyssey–First Impressions

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With much fanfare, at least inside my own mind, the Kinect arrived today, courtesy of a fantastic boyfriend with the desire to get me a really cool birthday present. My birthday’s still over a week away, but I couldn’t contain my excitement and the shiny black camera is now sitting in front of the TV, occasionally bobbing its head to attract my attention.

I have to admit that I was very sceptical of how good the Kinect would actually be. A poor history of peripherals throughout the history of all consoles, coupled with the disappointing launch titles for the rival PS3 Move made me wonder if it was worth the money.

Three things have gradually things persuaded me, however, pulling me in like the promise of a duvet, three big pillows and a Scooby Doo marathon.

Kinect Adventures (bundled with the Kinect), Your Shape Fitness Evolved, and the soon to arrive through my letterbox, Dance Central.

I was impressed by the Kinect as soon as I hooked it up to the 360. It’s shiny, hassle free and the interactive tutorial is simple, brief and pleasant to watch. It guides you through where to stand and will let you know if you have enough floor space; there’s been some discussion about how realistic Microsoft was in releasing a peripheral that requires a moderately sized living room, and thankfully I qualified. I did take up the tape measure prior to buying the Kinect, so I wasn’t worried – the Kinect site has a reasonably good guide to how much room you’ll need.

Onto the games…

Kinect Adventures is the most fun I’ve had with a game in a long time. Essentially a mix of mini-games, it’s a good title to be included with the machine itself. From white water rafting to assault courses, the game is a barrel of fun and as you might expect, it requires a lot of jumping around. It’s easy to break out into a bit of a sweat too, and a little hard on the shins if you’ve been out for a run that day. But, kids and adults alike should have a whale of a time. It’s cute graphics are simply gorgeous, and its surprise photo-taking (with you mid-jump) is a good laugh.

On completion of the first two rafting levels, I was awarded with a toy animal that I could then animate and voice through mo-cap and the Kinect’s microphone. Great, great fun!

Your Shape Fitness Evolved, too, surpassed my expectations. I’ve not used Wii Fit Plus for nearly a year, concentrating instead on building up weights, running and cycling to get fit and get rid of my belly. My routine’s been a bit hit and miss, though a freshly researched routine seems to be hitting the mark. I need variety in my workouts, and on a day like today, when it’s freezing cold and chucking it down, I need something I can do indoors without having to venture into the horrors outside.

I was looking for an alternative to running, cycling and my weights routine that can work my heart, help me tone and burn some carbs; and Your Shape, initially at least, really seems to give me plenty of options.

Your Fitness is a definite step up from Wii Fit, with a much more varied set of exercises, and a tailored fitness routine that I felt were missing from Wii Fit. The Kinect’s camera tracks you in real time and the trainer gives you encouraging feedback and tips on good form without getting annoying.

It kind of feels like a science fiction experience; the cool, white look combined with the energising, yet inoffensive music and great visual layout feel thrilling to interact with. I am a bit of a technology whore, and a very visual person to boot, but this software really works for me.

I’ve only played for a half hour, but the workouts were fun, with great demos of the exercises and a nice variety; whether you want cardio, toning or some Tai Chi, there’s plenty there. The workouts feel more like gym classes too, with plenty of energy but great 1-on-1 feedback, which I guess is the aim.

I think that because I was really into Wii Fit when it came out, Your Shape really shines in comparison. There’s no annoying, repeated health warnings or uninterruptable messages . The trainer’s voice doesn’t easily grate. You don’t need to repeatedly pick up and then put down a controller, so the flow of your workout isn’t broken. It treats me like an adult, rather than patronising me… and, at least so far, it isn’t telling me to hold my arms higher when they’re as high as they can go.

Both titles, with just over an hour and a half playtime between them so far, are really great fun and I can see them helping me to get off my butt some more; and wanting to. It feels like the initial thrill of the Wii, only more so, and with more promise to keep providing great titles.

With Dance Central in the trusty hands of the postman until tomorrow, I can can see that this is going to be a tiring, but fun, week.

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