Hottest Kinect games for Christmas and beyond

There's little doubt that Microsoft's Kinect was one of the big success stories last Christmas. Not only did the company sell around 6.3 million of the Xbox 360 motion sensing cameras before the end of 2010, it went on to be entered into the Guinness Book of Records as the "Fastest Selling Consumer Electronics Device" of all time.

However, while its sales exceeded expectations (even Microsoft's own), it has still taken time for publishers to support the add-on with quality compatible games titles. There have been a smattering that have stood out over the last twelve months - Dance Central, Kinectimals and Champion Jockey, perhaps - but this Christmas (and beyond) will be treated to a swathe of new titles, including Xbox Live Arcade games, that should give Kinect owners much more of an excuse to smile.

Pocket-lint got the chance to try a whole host of them during a Microsoft showcase event, so here's what we believe are the hottest Kinect games for Christmas and beyond. Including sequels to a couple of our faves...

The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Publisher
Ubisoft
Release date
Out now

Designed to coincide with the Stephen Spielberg animated movie, The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn on the Xbox 360 is not a Kinect-only title, but does have sections that are compatible with the Microsoft motion controller.

The graphics are very much inspired by the CGI motion captured characters in the film, and we saw two parts of the game that were controlled using Kinect, a dogfight in a plane and a chase across a desert in a motorcycle and side car with Captain Haddock and TinTin himself.

This specific section was kind-of a rails shooter, where you must use your hands to move a target on screen over on-coming bad guys and then fire a catapult shot at them.

Of course, it's all family fun, so there's not too much of a sense of kill or be killed, but this sequence moves at a fair old lick, and the graphics look amazing. Plus, as there's plenty of different gameplay styles throughout, it shouldn't become tired (or tiring).

Dance Central 2

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
Out now

The first Dance Central has easily been the best Kinect game for the best part of the first year of its life, and from our experience at the showcase event, Dance Central 2 is even better. Although the point of Harmonix's sequel is basically the same - perform specific, listed dance moves in time with the music - there's a couple of enhancements that make it great fun.

For starters, the new graphical style is top banana. While the previous game was colourful and cute, DC2 has been given a tasty lick of paint. The characters have, perhaps, slightly smoother animations, and are chunkier and more colourful.

But the number one change is the addition of simultaneous multiplayer gameplay, which can be jumped in and out of (literally) as a track goes on. A second player can be waiting in the wings, leap in and dance, and leap out again without disrupting your own flow.

Plus, there's an all new soundtrack including Rhianna, Usher and, most excitingly, Bananarama. Original Dance Central owners can also use their existing DLC tracks in the new game too.

Kinect: Disneyland Adventures

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
18 November 2011

While there are mini games contained within the bowels of Kinect: Disneyland Adventures, it is the main premise that, perhaps, excites us most. Essentially, it offers the entire Disneyland Anaheim theme park for you to wander through, meeting Disney characters and generally having a great time without having to leave your living room.

Now, obviously, visiting the real thing, whether that be in California, Florida or Paris, is better, but that can be hideously expensive, especially during a global recession. So, at least with this title, the kids can see the sights without the massive outlay. And they can still shake hands and cuddle Mickey Mouse, Goofy Peter Pan and the like.

As previously mentioned, the exploration side of the game is bolstered by mini games based on Disney rides. We had a go at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which we expected to be a roller coaster-like experience, considering its roots. However, it was probably one of the most physical things we had to do.

You're given a mine cart and, basically, have to pump along, what turned out to be, a massive track, collecting coins and avoiding obstacles (such as a rapidly approaching train). Not only was this fun, but it easily built up a sweat, and would encourage children to get exercise with their playtime.

It all looks gorgeous, as you'd expect, and we fully expect the game to be a massive hit this Christmas time.

Kinect Sports: Season Two

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
28 October 2011

The first Kinect Sports was essentially Microsoft's answer to Wii Sports, and featured a fun, if obvious, line-up of events for the new Kinect owner to jump, wave, punch and kick their way through. But, with football (soccer), beach volleyball, track and field, table tennis and boxing already rendered, what was left for Kinect Sports: Season Two?

The answer is golf, American football, baseball, tennis, skiing and, the most strenuous of all sports, darts. Each have their own style of gameplay, and unique demands on your body, but they all have the same graphical flourish that developer Rare is known for.

We've seen the darts element of Kinect Sports: Season Two before, at prior Microsoft showcase, but it was good to try out one of the other new events added to this sequel; skiing.

Although there is no physical prop to be wielded, the movements expected by this particular mini game are remind us a lot of Namco's Alpine Racer arcade machine. You have to weave your body side to side in order to zip through gates during a slalom, tuck to go faster, and even pumps your arms as if you're using ski poles.

It's great fun, and although we're yet to see some of the other sports in this sequel, we're almost certain that we'll be taking jaunts down snowy mountains more often than not.

Kinect Star Wars

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
2012

It's a great shame that Kinect Star Wars has been delayed until next year, although given the excuse that Microsoft and the developer have done so "to get things perfect", we're happy to wait. There would have been no need to rush release the game just because the Blu-ray box-set was ready, especially if it diminished the gameplay experience any.

In terms of what we were shown at the Christmas Showcase event, it wasn't much more than we already saw at E3 earlier in the year. However, getting some play time with the brief teaser level and the training mission has convinced us that if any help was needed to sell even more Kinects, this game will be it.

Of course, it's the ability to use Jedi powers through motions what are most exciting with Kinect Star Wars, but there will also be other mini games included that will mix it up a bit.

For starters, one section, Rancor Rampage, puts you into the body of a beast similar to the one in the chamber below Jabba the Hutt's throne room. And, as the point is to cause as much havoc in Mos Eisley Spaceport, wrecking buildings and eating residents (including Jawas), we could see this being a major draw in itself.

We can't wait. But we have to.

Kinectimals: Now with Bears

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
Out now

Those who already have the previous Kinectimals needn't buy Kinectimals: Now with Bears, as it is merely an upgraded version of the original cute game, with a few new games, a new area and new ursine characters. Instead, they can purchase an update for their version of the game from Xbox Live for 1,200 points.

Those who buy the new version from scratch will be able to choose from a feline cub as before or a panda, polar, grizzly, black or cinnamon bear. Plus, there are extra characters available for purchase, with the Build-A-Bear Workshop offering some exclusive cuddly toys that come with a scannable code, in order to add them to the game.

There are plenty of things you can do with your bear cub, including the new game of juggling, which Pocket-lint tried. Essentially, you and your cub must toss virtual balls back and forth, with more and more added all the while. It works really well, and requires/improves accurate hand-eye coordination.

It's also very cute stuff, and if you haven't got the original game, buying this one is a no brainer.

PowerUp Heroes

Publisher
Ubisoft
Release date
Out now

PowerUp Heroes is basically a beat-em-up, but with a twist. To begin with, you use your Xbox Avatar as your character and control him/her by frantically slapping and waving your appendages in the air. Plus, as there's a superhero themeology running throughout, you get the chance to earn new abilities and power ups - hence the name.

One interesting element to the game is split screen multi-player. As the action is viewed third person, but in 3D, each player needs their own viewpoint to fight from, so you get half a screen each. There's also online multi-player, where you can take on your friends (up to four players at one time), or even team up to take on the computer, using combined attacks along the way.

Graphically it's all whizz bangs and pretty lighting effects, and as it retails for around £25, it's not going to put too big a dent in your bank account. Just your face.

Project Draco

Publisher
Microsoft
Release date
2012

Unquestionably Japanese in origin, and developed by the team behind Rez and Panzer Dragoon, Project Draco is a traditional fast and frenetic shoot-em-up, gloriously rendered in 3D and entirely controllable with the Kinect.

It may also come as a shock, given its incredible heritage, that the game will be available on Xbox Live Marketplace in 2012 for a budget price. Certainly, from our brief play time with it, even considering that some of the graphics are unfinished at present, it looks more like a triple-A title than a Xbox Live fodder (although, to be fair, there's plenty of top quality games available to download directly - but, you know what we mean).

It's also one for those without much space to jump about in their living rooms, as movements needed to control the dragon that your in-game persona is riding are more considered and precise. That's not to say that it's slow going, quite the opposite, just that you don't have to flail your arms like a trainee swimmer.

Project Draco will also offer online (or System Link) co-op for up to three players. And, as you get a raise a dragon with new abilities earned through the main game, you can take your unique beast into multi-player games with you.

Definitely one to watch.

Puss in Boots

Publisher
THQ
Release date
2 December 2011

Based on the film that's an off-shoot of Shrek, Puss in Boots stars Anthonio Banderas' cute but deadly feline in an adventure of his own, and, judging by the furious demo given to us by one of the THQ team, you genuinely will feel like you're taking part yourself.

The game, from what we've seen of the demo levels, is part 3D platform, part beat-em-up as you swash-buckle, kick, jump and scratch your way through fairy tales and kids' book locations in search of the Golden Goose.

One particular favourite moment is where you get to physically strum, while Puss plays the guitar in order to woo señoritas (plump lady cats) in the game. Why? We're not entirely sure, but the faster you play air guitar, the faster Puss plays his - which made us laugh.

Sword fighting is cool too, with all manner of different motions pulling off different moves. Make sure you have plenty of space to play in, though.

Raving Rabids Alive & Kicking

Publisher
Ubisoft
Release date
November 2011

To be honest, we didn't see a lot of Ubisoft's latest Raving Rabbids, just one of the mini games, but judging by that alone, we can tell that it'll offer the same kind of immersive lunacy Wii-owners have come to know and love.

The section of Raving Rabbids Alive & Kicking we tried out involved a fire station, a pole and a ball of flame flung at us by those rascally Rabbids. It played out like a game of Pong on steroids, as you try to bat the fireball back towards the critters in order to stop them.

Up to four players can play simultaneously on many of the levels, and gamers are encouraged to share captured photos, accomplishments and high scores with an online community.

Great for a party, perhaps.

Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster

Publisher
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release date
Out now

We love Elmo here at Pocket-lint, and his inclusion in Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster is much welcomed here in PL Towers. However, it's also heartening to note that he's just one of the Sesame Street characters that appear throughout this game; Oscar the Grouch, Grover and Cookie Monster appear too.

The premise is nicely realised as it's a storybook adventure that a child helps to progress by completing challenges. Some are out and out physical games, such as throwing balls of rubbish into garbage cans, and some are more cerebral. For example, one of the games we saw demonstrated involved the player having to bend and stretch to precise points in order for flowers to hit notes on a musical scale.

Thankfully, all tasks are well thought out, introduced and beautifully presented, and parents are encouraged to help their children with drop in/out cooperative gameplay.

It's colourful and great fun, no matter the age of the player. Indeed, a certain head of a games studio (who shall remain nameless) told Pocket-lint a while back that he bought a Kinect for this title alone.

Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012

Publisher
Ubisoft
Release date
11 November 2011

Although fitness-based software is available on other consoles with motion controllers, it is only the Kinect that can track your whole body. And this unique feature is the mainstay of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012 - a massive update on last year's successful title.

For starters, you can now do exercises that require you to lie flat on the ground. Naturally, you'll need a mighty play space to do so, as the Kinect will need to read every inch of your body, but at least it adds something new.

Additionally, there are now over 90 minutes worth of activities to undertake and 60 new moves. Plus, there's a brand new feature called Run the World, which allows you to jog (on the spot) through London, Paris and New York, enjoying the sights as you go.

And there's a new swathe of workout routines, such as Boot camp, Cardio boxing and Martial Arts, or you can take dance classes including Latin and Hip Hop. You can even customise your workouts based on own preferences, body shape and fitness goals.

It's so extensive that it could be a godsend for those who haven't the cash to pay gym fees.



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