E3 2011: Hands-off Impressions of New Kinect Hardware

Unlike Nintendo and Sony, Microsoft's biggest focus this year is all about software–specifically, software to support the Kinect sensor that was released half a year ago. Although the peripheral sold a world-record amount of units since launch, the amount of games and applications available for things has been rather. . . lacking. Knowing this, Microsoft assured to Kinect owners that the drought will soon be over, and an abundance of games will be available for casual and seasoned gamers alike.

Some of the newest software available for the XBOX 360's Kinect was available for attendees of the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Which one of these titles did I connect with, and which one of them make me want to move away from the demo? The following are my hands-on hands-off impressions of the latest software for the Kinect.

Kinect: Star Wars

Arguably the most anticipated game in the Kinect library is Kinect Star Wars, an on-rails beat em'-up developed by LucasArts to be released as retail game this Winter. I played a co-op game with another attendee via vertical split screen, and the smaller screen wasn't distracting ay all (besides, I grew up with the N64).

The gameplay was easy to learn. swing with your right hand to attack with the lightsaber, lift your left hand to use the force. It's a lot more satisfying to use the force my extending your hand very dramatically, as well. However, there are more advanced moves at the player's disposal, as well. Jump to leap behind a shielded enemy, kick to . . . well, kick the enemy, move your body forward to make a dash forward, and players are able to strafe left and right.

The demo was extremely easy and mindless, it was just a showcase of what players are able to do in the final game. The controls were very tight and responsive–never once did I unintentionally perform an action I didn't intend to do. With such a wide variety of moves that can be performed, the prospect of a deep combat game is possible. At one point in the demo, my partner was attacking and distracting a shielded enemy while I jumped behind it in order to attack its vulnerable side. Hopefully, this game can be entertaining enough for the casual gamers, and deep enough for the seasoned Star Wars fan and gamer.

Kinect Fun Labs

What a pleasant surprise Kinect Fun Labs was! Released as a free download in the Kinect Hub, Kinect Fun Labs is a bunch of fun applications so you can finally do something with expensive Kinect sensor of yours. They may not be the deepest games out there, but they're fun to show off to non-gamers, and are good for a laugh.

One of the applications available is “Bobblehead,” in which the player is able to scan his face into the game and create a cartoon-like bobblehead likeness of himself. Players can then manipulate the bobblehead in a variety of ways, such as shaking it.

Another charming application is the “Googly Eyes” app. Players can scan just about any object- a basketball, a pillow, or even your own ass. The game will then turn the scanned object into a 3-dimensional object with googly-eyes. The character is then able to mimic the player's movements. Very cute.

Kinect Disneyland Adventures

Somehow, the concept of walking around a virtual Disneyland excited me. It would certainly save me hundred of dollars on two passes to the expensive theme park. After a half-hour of the game, it was clear that this title is intended solely for children or the casual crowd. Players take on the role of a young boy or girl, and will begin by walking around the park.

The controls for the park hub are horrible–it's hard to imagine why such a difficult control design choice was made with casual market in mind. Players move forward by extending their arm, and turn my tilting his or her shoulders. Players can walk up to Disney characters and interact with them, but it's limited to a number of actions such as waving, hugging, belly-bumping, and waving bye.

Players are able to jump into “rides” at anytime, too, by using a Fastpass. A Fastpass is really a menu to access the rides, and the rides are really minigames. The rides I sampled are the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and the fight with Captain Hook. Pirates was simply an on-rails minigame that involves dodging obstacles in a cave, and “attacking” the bombs that pirates throw at the players by swinging at them. This is very similar to the raft ride in Kinect Adventures. The Captain Hook battle, while a lot more entertaining and cinematic, was very simple compared to the Star Wars Kinect game that I sampled previously. Players are able to swing a sword high and low depending on where Hook was blocking. Jumping and ducking is also available for defensive maneuvers, as well.

Obviously intended for children, it's hard to imagine any this game pleasing any other type of gamer of Disney fan.

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