Microsoft’s Kinect still receives its fair share of criticism amongst gaming’s press, and rightfully so, as there’s some real stinkers, more than there are actually titles that prove to be worth the money. Needless to say, Kinect games in general are like a minefield, yet every so often you stumble across such a game that takes what Kinect has to offer, and actually puts it to use in a way that not only makes sense, but a way that works – which is a rarer commodity than you might initially think.
Games for children on Kinect has gained some ground, perhaps not as consistently intuitive as the plethora of sport/fitness games, but the games for kids certainly have proven more fruitful than developers attempts at capturing the traditional gamer. Who do we have to thank for such success? Did you guess? Well, it’s Elmo and friends of course! Elmo’s last Kinect outing in Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster cemented the fact that Kinect can work in an intuitive, simple and fun manner for kids and family to enjoy.
What’s been ushered in now is another new way to play, learn and have fun – with the 2-Way TV Experience. Microsoft have released two games under this new moniker, both of which are separate stand-alone titles; Sesame Street TV and Nat Geo TV, and as the mention of ‘TV’ should indicate, these are not your typical Kinect outings. The 2-Way TV Experience is more comparable to an interactive DVD that you may have previously experienced, and instead of press a key on your remote, the games will prompt you to use both your voice and gestures at key points to interact with these full-length television episodes.
What’s particularly fascinating about both games is that for the most part you can simply sit down and enjoy the on-screen antics of Elmo or the man and his real-life bear buddy, which is a tearaway from the Kinect gaming antics that we’ve come to expect of being stood up and running on the spot, etc. Interaction more follows the premise of literally pointing out and talking to the TV, as to spot any on-screen differences or prompts, or there may be the occasion where you take the more hands-on approach and interact more directly with these furry characters.
The overall presentation is excellent, there’s very few instances where there are actual game graphics presented, but indeed they are and when done they hold up well in between the actual real episodes. Both Sesame Street TV and Nat Geo TV contain eight rather lengthy episodes each, spanning 2-discs per game. The user-interface itself is very much familiar to the Kinect experience you will already be familiar with on the Dashboard, enabling you and family to jump in with minimal fuss.
Furthermore, new copies at retail include two versions of the games and for achievement junkies out there – those achievements are stackable. Clearly Sesame Street TV is aimed at younger children, while Nat Geo TV is more suitable for young teens. If younger family members handling costly game discs is of concern, then the included digital option simplifies the process much further, with no handling or swapping of discs required.
On your Xbox 360 console you can download a free dedicated app for both Nat Geo TV and Sesame Street TV with the option to purchase individual episodes, or using the included Season Pass code from your game, you can download all those interactive episodes and some further bonus content. You’re not restricted to just downloads either, as the option to stream is present, and with the episodes being on the lengthy side and in HD, that instant stream option is greatly welcomed. If things couldn’t get any simpler, now with the release of the latest Xbox 360 Dashboard update you can Pin the game to your Xbox 360 home page so children can quickly and easily access their new favourite interactive show as soon as the console is switched on.
Kinect might not be an all out runaway success, but for the right audience and the right type of game, whether it be sport/fitness or children’s entertainment, then it can make for a new and entertaining way to play. This 2-Way TV Experience of both Sesame Street TV and Nat Geo TV proves that Kinect is not just good for dripping sweat in your living room, but can be fun and educational for young family members as well.
8/10 – Review by Wayne Julian