Kinect Dance Party

Unless you’ve been living in a virtual cave for the last month (granted, this is entirely possible thanks to Minecraft), you’ll have likely heard that the Xbox 360 Kinect, Microsoft’s attempt to enter the Wii-dominated motion-controller marketplace, launched last week. Equipped with a stockpile of games from the launch-lineup and an ideal Kinect party setting (a cleared floor space with plenty of room to move), four members of the Glasgow Ready-Up posse sat down to evaluate the possibilities of Microsoft’s casual-friendly camera. So how did we get on?

After indulging in some munchie boxes and delicious Chinese take-away, we kicked things off (literally) with the logical starting place: Kinect Sports. It is, as the title suggests, the obligatory sports mini-game collection of the bunch and it does a good job of showing off Kinect’s initial capabilities. It includes a very serviceable version of table tennis, among others, and although I felt the controls were somewhat floaty compared to a Wiimote or PlayStation Move controller, you can actually move your avatar around play areas. Progress!

And while bowling is a ton of fun in the right setting, I have a feeling that it might not be quite as accurate as the Wii Motion Plus-enabled Wii Sports Resort version of bowling; I mean, with that, I was never able to throw a ball onto the lane so hard that it would damage the floor, earning me an achievement in the process! Perhaps I should try harder. Having said that, the game does take into account your posture while aiming for a shot, an impressive touch and something the Wiimote and Playstation Move would probably struggle to figure out.

She didn't smash the lane, bloody amateur!

Where Kinect Sports really shined for me was with Rare’s take on Europe’s favourite sport, good ol’ footie. Rather than try to replicate mini-games that have been done (arguably) better before, it plays to the strengths of the Kinect hardware: full-body motion tracking. Between frantically kicking left-and-right, heading balls into the back of the net, and jumping around like a loon to block goals, it was not only a good show of the technology on offer, it was also a lot of fun. The game was also an excellent way to show off Kinect Sports’ video clip feature, wherein the game intelligently records highlights of important game moments. For want of trying, I’m not sure any of us will be able to forget Kami running around topless in response to a goal.

Stepping away from Rare’s offerings and moving towards a true third-party game, Dan bravely offered to evaluate the merits of Ubisoft’s Fighters Uncaged, which has had an uneasy reception, to say the least. After besting one of the most mind-numbingly-long tutorials in all of gaming, he actually took on another fighter. Sadly, the game appeared to be mapping pre-defined attacks to certain motions, rather than offering 1:1 control. On top of that, we noticed a fair bit of input-delay. On the plus side, when Dan performed a Miyagi-style crane kick, it did — whether by accident or design — finish off the opponent with a cool high-jump kick.

Let’s finish with my highlight of the evening, Dance Central. Given that it’s from the masters of the rhythm genre, Harmonix, I had high hopes for their foray into motion-controlled lunacy. They didn’t disappoint. With their typical style and flair, it combines fluid controls, addictive gameplay and an awesome soundtrack into a cohesive whole. The presentation is also wonderful; laced in bright neon colours and bold fonts, everything about the game screams “DANCE FLOOR TIME PARTY ON HECK YEAH!”. The menu control options, at first a little confusing, soon become second nature and are ideally suited to the Kinect’s arm-waving interface.

The game is also surprisingly hard, even on the “Easy” setting. Or rather, it’s extremely good at working out who can actually dance. After spending five minutes failing to complete the first half of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” (sorry, Fran), the game suggested that I spend some time practicing. Of course, Michael stepped in to make me look like a complete amateur mere seconds later, but I suspect he might be a little too good at it, if you know what I mean. Eh? Eh? Keep your eye on that one.

Our favourite dancer, she sexy!

Ahem. Speaking of practicing, for the less graceful among us, the game includes a very welcome mode which breaks down each section of a song, allowing you to practice it ad infinitum. Granted, this didn’t stop Walter having one of his legendary Super Street Fighter IV-style rage-rants when he failed to complete a section. It’s a shame that Dance Central didn’t manage to catch Walter doing this, because unlike Kinect Sports, it speeds up the looped clips like a bad gif animation for bonus hilarity. Genius!

Overall, the night was a rousing success. Sure, there were problems — the camera seems all too eager to pick up everybody nearby during play, you need a hell of a lot of room to move around, and you can forget sitting down to a nice, relaxing gaming session — but Kinect has potential. I’m not so sure it’s the future of gaming, but I can say one thing for certain: it is the future of dancing!







11 responses to “Kinect Dance Party”

  1. Branstar avatar

    Lovin’ the video, nice work 🙂

  2. Celeste avatar

    I always suspected Michael was black.

    That image of Walter Fraser dancing is gonna stay with me forever. Excellent stuff! Great review too.

  3. Mark P avatar

    Dance Central is the only Kinect game I currently want, which doesn’t really justify spending £120 on Kinect for. 🙁

    That video pretty much explains why I want it though. 😀

  4. Tony avatar

    I just watched this at work. It’s somehow more entrancing without sound.

  5. pints of two avatar
    pints of two

    Kinect and 3d telly….thats gonna be one step closer to a heavy rain world

  6. Fran avatar

    Dammit, the more I watch this, the more I want it!!!

  7. Higgeh avatar

    Walter Fraser is proof that white men CAN dance

    brilliant absoloutely brilliant

  8. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    I think my attempt at Dance Central would result in Kinect knowing it was time to turn on the console. Good to hear you had fun but I wouldn’t have the available space in my current gaming zone.

  9. Dscythe avatar

    You was right kami Mind blown :3

  10. Duncan avatar

    So… nobody is going to comment on Kirsten flashing Kinect? I’m going to have to be “that guy”?…

  11. Zoey avatar

    We’ve all flashed at Kinect, Dunk! Are you honestly trying to say you haven’t?

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