Whilst I was originally rather pessimistic about the Kinect, I was very curious about Child of Eden. I certainly didn’t dislike my brief experience with Kinect Adventures, just didn’t fancy paying £150 for a Kinect and a few good games. However I started to convince myself that I really wanted, even needed, a Move, Wii or Kinect, opting for the latter of those three. Here’s my initial impressions:
Child of Eden
Out of the three Xbox Kinect titles that I now own, this was the one with the buzz and excitement surrounding it. I was really looking forward to firing it up and having a go. As expected it looked sensational and I was anticipating an immersive experience. Unfortunately having a game that looks wonderful with innovative gameplay doesn’t cover up the shoddy design. The first level, the tutorial, contains possibly the two most despicable of tutorial sins. Modal popups mid-action and being exceptionally long. A look around the internet and aside from people who are amazingly amazing at everything (no doubt including yet limited to lying), people do tend to fail the first time and are forced to go through it over and over, meaning more modal pop ups and frustration. Getting used to tracking enemy shots and using the right gun requires a bit of skill and practice. This is a necessary learning curve, but making the players do the whole bloody thing again including the tutorial messages, which can’t be immediately skipped and a require moving your hands to a low and uncomfortable position. Don’t get me wrong, from my time playing so far Child of Eden seems like truly a wonderful and stunning experience that I’d highly advise trying… but its still got some flaws that are very avoidable.
This is no more than a daft little extra that comes supplied, but it did amuse me briefly. By holding props up for the Kinect Sensor, it can scan them in, create a 3D model of the object and sticks some funny eyes on it. Then as you move about infront of the sensor, the object also moves, creating a video of your ketchup bottle, tin can or whatever prance about the screen. Okay its hardly going to blow your mind but if you have 5-10 minutes spare and your Xbox & Kinect are up and running, well give it a go. I enjoyed making my Mr Hat puppet bound about the screen and with some actual foresight and thought, I could potentially make an amusing video for youtube.
Think of the exciting adventure related tasks that you can do with the Kinect… Soaring through the sky in a plane, crashing down rapids in a raft or driving along a windy mountain top in a jeep. That is what Kinect Adventures brings you. Oh wait, no… it doesn’t. You get one very slow and timid raft, plugging some holes from an underwater tank, bouncing a ball, grinding along some rickety track and popping bubbles. Wow. Amazing. A couple are okay for a few goes but they grow old quick. Unfortunately there’s a complete lack of diversity in levels and it gets old far too quickly. Co-op should be where this game is in its element but you need a living room the size of Wembley stadium to be able to play and move without clouting yourself and the furniture. Not to mention having the game require you to step forward only for the Kinect sensor to moan because you’re too close. This game is a load of absolute shit.
Kinect Joy Ride
When I saw the positive ratings for the game on my usual online stores I decided to get a copy. Whilst the core game idea is pretty decent and appears to be some variety in game modes, the actual mechanics are rather poor. I found myself regularly bemused as to why I was in a burst, turning left not right or suddenly facing the wrong way. I’ve not swore so much at a game since APB. Perhaps that is me just not being used to the Kinect but one thing is for definite, the UI is awful. Most of the buttons are fairly low and I found this a little awkward to navigate. It feels more natural when my hands are around shoulder level, not below the waist. Some of the key GUI elements seemed to be positioned precisely in that awkward position, about 45-60 degrees from your body where it really fucking hurts when you try to hold your arm there.
Having played a demo it was exactly what I expected. Motion based games requiring different levels of physical exertion. It isn’t something people will play by themselves but it was fun with someone else alongside you. The two game types, sprinting and bowling were both “okay” but nothing special and I’d hope that they’ve saved the best for paying customers because if that’s as good as it gets, then its really not worth buying. Graphics are typical to that of avatar games, although what surprised me was that I never played as my avatar. Hopefully that is a demo only issue!
I never completed the demo but it gave me a pretty firm first impressions. As expected it is very cutesy and pretty much centres around “look at the adorable young animal”. Aside from playing with your pet, there looks to be a few mini games and quests, although I’m not sure if there’s any real plot or development. I doubt that the type of game needs a plot to be honest with Kinectimals looking like a bit of a motion controlled tamagotchi on your TV screen. Out of the games that I’ve played so far it did seem to have the best responses to my movements, although the gameplay was rather bland. Obviously not one for the hardcore gamer but for kids it does seem to have some promise and with solid controls, hopefully they’ll be able to pick it up and play away.
The Kinect does seem to lack strength in titles. It is quite fun to play but still feels like a novelty. Using menus just doesn’t feel natural, although the “you are the controller” does work for many of the games. Perhaps the main failing of the Kinect’s gameplay in what I’ve experienced so far is that due to the space required you can’t really have 4 player action, at least in many people’s homes. It really doesn’t help that some of the basics in game design are ignored with cumbersome UIs, weak progression and distinct lack of game content. The games I played simply weren’t anywhere near as good as some of the popular equivalent Wii games and the Kinect badly needs a Mario Kart style title. Something immensely fun and accessible that everyone with a Kinect will *want* to own and get their friends round to play. There is still a length to go before the Kinect becomes a “must have” gadget, or even one worth buying.
These are only first impressions from limited playtime.