Friday, February 24, 2012

Family Review: Microsoft Xbox 360 With Kinect

Finally....I'm getting around to our review of our family Christmas present.  In short....We Love It! 

So you might remember that we're finally moving up in the technological world.  We upgraded from an old style TV to a huge new flat screen.  Gotta love great prices on floor models.  It's our main TV since we don't have TVs in any bedrooms. 

Then just before Christmas we debated getting a new video game system.  We're not huge gamers.  We have a Playstation 2 (yes, the older one).  It saw the light of day maybe once a month.  Sometimes twice if Scooter was really racking up the chores and chose to play a video game with Biker Boy as a reward.  (The kids have a chore chart and get a reward after 15 chores.  Scooter usually picks a video game.)  The most playing our video game system got was when Scooter broke his leg and Biker Boy was recovering from surgery years ago.  Occassionally, about 2 or 3 times a year, Biker Boy would play some games if he had time.  But with kiddos and home projects and life, video game playing isn't real high on our list of things to do.  So this review isn't for serious gamers, it's for casual people who really don't play a lot of games. 

You can catch a glimpse of the Kinect right in front of the TV.  The xbox is down on the left hand side of the photo in the cabinet.  Yes, we're still working on building the media center.  We hope to pick up the countertop this weekend to finish it off. 

After Biker Boy got a $200 gift card and we saw that Wal-Mart had the Xbox with Kinect on sale for $299 with a $100 gift card offer....well, we couldn't beat that deal.  So for only $99 out of our pocket and then getting a $100 gift card back, we got ourselves a family Christmas present to go with the honking huge TV.  We were mostly interested in the Kinect system.  So that's what this review is going to be about.  The Kinect.  Because we only have one game for the actual Xbox and we rarely play it. 

It's awesome!  I rarely played video games before and using the Kinect is so much fun for a non-gaming person.  It has been great for family game nights.  The only time you're sitting on the couch is if you're watching others.  And then you're cheering them on (it's been a great lesson for our little ones to help encourage each other rather than put each other down).  It's a great way to get people involved together in a video game.  Yes, a video game...that just sounds odd to me.  Cause this thing moves you.  Really, you have to move to get through the video game with Kinect.  And about the moving....let me tell you....this thing can get your heart rate going in the right games. 

The Kinect is a technological marvel.  At least to me.  Biker Boy is an optical engineer who works in biometrics (fingerprint reading) and he's really impressed with this.  When you first get the Kinect you have to set it up to recognize you.  In other words you have to make a profile for yourself.  The kids weren't so fond of this part because you had to move certain ways, make certain poses, and follow green boxes.  But they managed to do it just fine at 4 and 7 years of age.  We all set up an avatar or our computer person.  For the most part the Kinect recognizes us when we step into a game to play.  Sometimes it doesn't.  But that could be because of different light situations or because sometimes I wear my glasses and I haven't set up the Kinect to recognize me in my glasses.  But don't worry if you have guests over, the Kinect just lets them play as a guest.  It doesn't need to recognize them or set up a profile for them.

I do think a bigger TV helps with the Kinect, especially when you're playing with 2 players.  You'll also need quite a bit of room to move.  I will admit, we've smacked each other playing before.  But that's probably our fault for getting so into the game.  I do like that you can play a video game with your body and you don't have to hold on to a controller.  It's completely amazing how that works!

As of right now we have 4 Kinect games.  I'll review the one that comes with the Kinect here and may do the others another time.  (Hint...The Disneyland game is the family favorite and best game we have!)

Kinect Adventures is the game that comes with the Kinect.  You use your hand to control and select options from the menu.  The kids had trouble with this at this first, but when we showed them how to keep their palm facing the TV, they became pros at it.  It's a pretty easy menu to control with your hand.  The Adventures game has 5 different types of adventures:  Rallyball, River Rush, Relfex Ridge, Space Pop, and 20,000 Leaks.  Within each adventure there are different courses or game plays.  The River Rush is a favorite of the kids.  Biker Boy and I both like Reflex Ridge.  To be honest, we've done all the Reflex Ridge courses as exercise.  Seriously, it gets your legs burning by the time you reach the Olympian course.  Sometimes I'll even do this as exercise when Biker Boy is off on his weekly snowshoe and snowboard excursion at night.  Yes, I'm the mom who doesn't like video games and I'm playing the Kinect by myself.  It's totally fun! 

As you play the Kinect and the Adventures game, you'll learn that a little "tweaking" is required.  You'll have to jump a little earlier than you think or push your hands at times that don't feel quite right to you.  Or maybe that's just me.  Biker Boy is a pro at pushing the yellow bars in Reflex Ridge, while I miss most of them.  Biker Boy beats me on those challenges, while I beat him on others.  It's all good.  Nothing like a little friendly competition with your spouse.  The more you play, the better you'll get at it.  Now I'm not encouraging you to play video games all the time, it just takes practice like anything else does.

The Adventures game is pretty forgiving.  You don't die in it, you don't get hurt in it, and it just keeps playing.  It's rated E for Everyone and it is for everyone.  Our 4 year old loves to play it and she's not into video games.  She's the one who picks to watch Tweety Bird or Curious George for her chore reward.  While you're playing the games a camera captures photos of you playing.  It's pretty funny to see the photos when you're done.  We don't do anything with them, but you can.  We also aren't connected to Xbox Live, but that's apparently something you can do for online multiplayer entertainment. 

If we had to give stars to the games, we'd probably give the Kinect Adventures game 5 out of 5 stars.  It's basic, but easy.  There are only 5 different games, but still a lot of variety that you don't get bored too easily.  It's also easy enough to control and gives you a variety of movements. Some games get your heart rate going and others will just have you moving.  The Adventures games was a great choice to include with the Kinect system.  It gives an easy and great introduction to how to use the system.  It's also a fun game to play.  I'd say our Disneyland game is the most requested family game to play and Adventures is the second most requested.  We probably play the Kinect about once a week as a family for some family game time.  We play anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, usually before bedtime. 

And we're not the only ones who think the Kinect is awesome.  Biker Boy's raving about it got someone he knows to buy one and they love it.  Grandma N. also tried it out when she was visiting us and now she and Grandpa Doc are the proud owners of a Kinect and the Disneyland game.  We're waiting to here how that competition goes between Grandma and Grandpa.  (Mom - Did you get it yet?!) 

So basically, we love the Kinect.  For a family of non-gamers, we think it's great.  It gets you moving, it's easy to play, and it involves everyone.  It's really great for family time together.  There are a variety of games you can get for it, probably something to satisfy everyone's tastes.  We'd highly recommend one if you're interested in getting it.  And we're not paid to say that...we shelled out our own gift cards and money to get this. 

So if you're looking for something to get the family, go try out a Kinect.  You might be surprised and find that you quite enjoy it.  And this coming from a mom who never liked video games....mostly cause I'm bad at them.  Plus I didn't just like sitting on the couch with a controller in my hand. (I'm the one who uses her whole body to drive a car video game with a controller, so yeah...the Kinect is awesome).   

Do you have any favorite Kinect games if you own one?

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