Kinect Arrives: Here Come the Games
Fifteen months after the company revealed "Project Natal" at E3 2009, Microsoft is delivering Kinect to the masses as the device goes on sale online and at retail outlets nationwide. With more than a dozen games due at launch and some 20 more slated for release this year, it's going to be difficult to separate the quality games from launch duds. We've rounded up the entire slate of games due for the Kinect from launch and beyond, picking the winners from each category so that you can get the best value from the product.
DANCING GAMES: Top Title - Dance Central
If you're buying just one game with your Kinect, Dance Central should be it. Harmonix knows how to create addictive music-based experiences that exude style, and Dance Central is no different. Unlike the Dance Dance Revolution games of old and the recent Just Dance hits, Dance Central takes the entirety of your movement into consideration, and with an impressive track list of today's hottest hits, it'll certainly be easy to get your entire body moving.
DANCING GAMES: Dance Masters
Dance Masters does have one major plus in its favor in the fact that it's being created by Konami, the forefathers of dancing video games. If you're the type that played DDR excessively in arcades, Dance Masters and its Japanese-focused soundtrack might be more up your alley. For the general public, though, we're endorsing Dance Central.
FITNESS: Top Title - Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
Wii Fit and EA Sports Active have both made great leaps in the world of fitness games. Based on our time with the title, we believe that Your Shape: Fitness Evolved will stand among those games as the next great exercise game. Unlike the previous two fitness benchmarks, Your Shape has the ability to view your body and offer feedback based on your form. Combine that innovation with the cleanest and most pleasant fitness game interface we've seen so far, and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved could be for the Kinect what Wii Fit was for the Balance Board.
FITNESS: Biggest Loser: The Ultimate Workout
As the longest-running fitness-based reality show on television, The Biggest Loser has significantly more cultural cache than just about every other fitness franchise. THQ has been able to find success in the cluttered Wii marketplace with the franchise, releasing The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout for the Kinect. With the show's well-known trainers and a familiar IP, it could command a repeat performance on the Kinect.
FITNESS: EA Sports Active 2 (Shipping Nov. 18)
The original EA Sports Active was able to grab control of the Wii fitness game marketplace by creating a more conducive workout environment on consoles. With EA Sports Active 2, the company is integrating an online component so customers can track their progress online with data earned in-game. The included heart-rate monitor is way less intrusive than the resistance band that shipped with the Wii versions and should help provide more crucial fitness data than any other title on the market.
FITNESS: Zumba Fitness (Shipping Nov. 18)
The popular dancing fitness brand will make its debut on consoles this year, and on the Xbox 360, it looks like it could admirable bridge the gap between Dance Central and Your Shape. With a Latin-flavored licensed soundtrack and vibrant visuals, Zumba Fitness could appeal to folks who prefer a bit more fun in their workouts.
RACING: Top Title - Sonic Free Riders
The Sonic Free Riders franchise has been one of the mascot's few bright spots over the last few years, and Sonic Free Riders looks to continue to shine. Doing a trick-based board-riding game is a no brainer on the Kinect, which can recognize leans, jumps, and spins with amazing accuracy. From the time we've spent with it, we can see this being Sonic's best game of 2010. Not much of a compliment, we know, but this could be one of the better Kinect launch games.
RACING: Kinect Joy Ride
As one of the longest-in-development Kinect launch games, Kinect Joy Ride should provide a solid racing experience. Revealed in 2009 as a potential free Xbox Live Arcade download, the game has now morphed into Microsoft's premiere racing game for the Kinect. The control method, which requires you to hold your hands in the air to pantomime steering and various moves to perform tricks and boosts. It's done well, but the standing while driving control scheme doesn't feel quite as natural as Sonic's boarding, so we give that game the racing honors.
RACING: Adrenalin Misfits
With Sonic Free Riders filling the same niche, arcade snowboarding Kinect launch title Adrenalin Misfits may have a bit of a difficult time standing out from the pack. However, much like Sega, developer-publisher Konami knows how to make an arcade-like experience work on consoles, so don't count this game out just yet.
SPORTS: Top Title - Kinect Sports
While the Wii and PlayStation Move had a sports compilation as a pack-in game, Kinect Sports is getting a slightly more subdued launch aside Adventures. While the thrill of stationary soccer, running in place, and pantomiming bowling isn't quite as immersive as the first time you played Wii Sports or Sports Champions, this is a game that shouldn't be overlooked, as the many sports minigames in this title are quick and easy to get into. This may be the most approachable Kinect launch game.
While the UK-developed Kinect Sports goes for more of a worldly sports appeal, Ubisoft's MotionSports will include a few more U.S.-favored games. Football and boxing minigames will be among the handful of sporting events included in the game, while skiing and soccer trials will still keep some international flavor. With first-party Rare having a little more experience with the Kinect, their game gets the duke, but don't count out Motion Sports.
SPORTS: Fighters Uncaged
During the holiday season, both the Kinect and Move will have a fighting sim set to cater to older gamers. Our experience with The Fight: Lights Out has been iffy, and despite the publishing power of Ubisoft, we're going to remain reserved about Fighters Uncaged due to our lack of time with the title. If you want to launch title that will catch the eye of the non-casual crowd, this is amongst the Kinect's most mature-skewing games.
SPORTS: Deca Sports Freedom (Shipping Nov. 18)
While Wii Sports has ruled the roost on Nintendo's home console, Deca Sports has admirably filled the niche for casual gamers looking for ever more motion-based sports minigames. Hudson is delivering a similar experience for the Kinect in the form of Deca Sports Freedom. Featuring tried and true Deca Sports minigames like Figure Skating, Snow cross, and Archery, Deca Sports may not have the critical acclaim of other sports compilations, but it does have significantly more experience in the genre than any other company, save Nintendo.
SPORTS: Brunswick Pro Bowling (Shipping Dec. 14)
Releasing on all motion-based platforms, Brunswick Pro Bowling is the only sports game on this list that strives to replicate the authenticity of the real thing. If you're a die-hard bowling fan, you'll probably get a kick out of the ability to customize your ball-slinger and take part in leagues and tournaments.
PARTY/FAMILY: Top Title - Kinect Adventures
Picking Kinect Adventures as the top party game for launch is a no-brainer, since it will be the platform's pack-in title. Much like Wii Sports and Sports Champions, Kinect Adventures is a minigame compilation that serves as the ideal multiplayer experience. The minigames run the gamut from obstacle courses to white-water rafting to bubble-popping, but they're all built for multiple players to jump in and play with little in the way of a learning curve. Pack-in games aren't meant to provide engrossing and deep experiences-they're a way to snare the casual crowd as quickly as possible. In that respect, Kinect Adventures fits the prototype to a T.
If any game in the Kinect's launch lineup is being geared towards the younger set, it's Kinectimals. Not only does the game allow you to train a variety of small furry creatures to perform tricks, but the Kinect can also scan specially-created stuffed animals to add additional animals to the game. With 2005's Nintendogs getting a little long in the tooth, Kinectimals is the biggest animal sim to hit in quite some time and could sell Kinects in the same way the aforementioned title sold the DS.
PARTY/FAMILY: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (Ships Nov. 16)
It's hard to classify Harry Potter among any of the launch-window Kinect games. For one thing, it's the only title of the bunch that can be played outside of the Kinect, as the game's predominant mode is the standard-controller compatible campaign. The Kinect-exclusive mode functions as more of a shooting gallery wherein one or two players can fling spells at enemies by moving their arms in various ways. Our experience with the mode was hit and miss, so we'd recommend the game to serious Potter-philes who will get mileage out of the standard game.
PARTY/FAMILY: Game Party in Motion (Ships Nov. 18)
It may not have the critics backing, but Game Party has been one of the Wii's greatest successes, notching millions of sales. Warner Bros. Interactive is hoping the love will go cross-platform with the Kinect version, entitled Game Party in Motion. With a variety of simple games like darts and arcade basketball as well as classic games like Root Beer Tapper from the recently acquired Midway, Game Party in Motion could see a slight uptick in appreciation from critics, though that's obviously not the franchise hopes to achieve.
KINECT IN 2011: Child of Eden (Ships in Spring)
As with PlayStation Move, the first wave of Kinect games aim to ensnare the casual gamer who has made motion-based gaming a hit. The Kinect games due next should appeal to a more traditional gaming audience. Here's what's due in 2011 and later.
The game will support standard controllers, but early looks at Child of Eden emphasize the game's ability to use Kinect as a control method. Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his team at Q Entertainment have produced impressive visual and aural gaming marvels; screenshots don't do the game justice.
KINECT IN 2011: Michael Jackson The Experience (Ships early 2011)
Dance Central will likely capture the early adopter audience for Kinect, but by the time Michael Jackson: The Experience breaks it down on Microsoft's platform, gamers may be willing to give this game some time on the floor. As the only dancing game featuring the best tunes from the King of Pop, it'll only take passable gameplay from Ubisoft to make this dancer worth watching. We think they'll be up to the task.
KINECT IN 2011: Forza Motorsport 4
As the Xbox 360's signature racing sim, Forza has always done an admirable job ensnaring the hardcore. While the franchise won't be eschewing controller-based racing anytime soon, the incorporation of a Kinect-enabled mode in Forza Motorsport 4 should serve as icing on the cake for the always-stellar sim series.
KINECT IN 2011: Codename D
True to the form of Grasshopper Manufacture (creators of No More Heroes, Contact, and Killer7), Codename D is equal parts mysterious and bizarre. The only trailer that's been shown for the game features Mexican wrestlers and lethal baseball beanings, though none of it can be assumed to be in-game footage. Grasshopper's games are nothing if not memorable, so we'll be keeping an eye on its progress.
KINECT IN 2011: Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor
If there's any Kinect game that's aiming for the hardcore, it's Capcom's latest game in the Steel Battalion franchise. While the original game required a 40-button controller, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor will aim to keep the combat similarly sim-based while utilizing player motion only. This game may stand as the ultimate test to whether a traditionally hardcore experience can be replicated with the Microsoft Kinect.
KINECT IN 2011: Star Wars Kinect
It's been almost a half-decade since the Wii launched and we still don't have a proper lightsaber simulator. The upcoming Star Wars Kinect project, which is still shrouded in Lucasarts-brand mystery, will allow you to use the Kinect to approximate Force movement, and (we hope) the ability to perform 1:1 lightsaber swings. It may be difficult without a controller, but everyone has a broom in their home, right?
KINECT IN 2011: Body and Brain Connection
The face of Nintendo's Brain Age franchise is going multiplatform. In Namco's Body and Brain connection, Dr. Ryuta Kawashima will help you stay fit and smart by incorporating reflex and judgment-based activities that will get your mind working as fast as your heart. It's a very non-traditional take on fitness gaming and the extra time given to the development could lead to something quite special.
KINECT IN 2011: Haunt
A more lighthearted take on horror for the Kinect, our initial observation of Haunt (strictly via trailer) is that it's exactly what you'd expect from the developers of Parappa the Rapper. It's currently looking more haunted house than survival horror, but that could be good for finding a spooky game for the younger set that won't bore older gamers.
KINECT IN 2011: Rise of Nightmares
Filling the "Silent Hill" niche on the Kinect, Rise of Nightmares looks to be all about the scares. While Haunt may aim for the younger set and Codename D going for Grasshopper's unique brand of bizarre cool, Rise of Nightmares will go straight for freaking people out. If the trailer is any indication, it's off to a good start.
KIINECT IN 2011: Project Draco
Another Japan-developed Kinect game, Project Draco will be a flight-based shooter like Child of Eden. Unlike Q Entertainment's project, however, Project Draco will use the Kinect exclusively. That may allow the developers to create an entirely new experience that still manages to hearken to the classic Panzer Dragoon franchise.