Kinect's Second Wave
Star Wars, Sesame Street, Disneyland and Rise of Nightmares.
Star Wars Kinect - or it may be Kinect: Star Wars - has more big-budget visual polish than the rather murky Rise of Nightmares, but is a little further away from the finish line in terms of nailed-down features. The demo I played through was on rails, for example, but the developer still hasn't confirmed whether the final game will be too.
Either way, Terminal Reality's definitely on its way to making something that at least looks like the trailer unveiled back at E3 2010. There are lightsabers (right hand), force blast and force throw (left hand) and even that weird scooting dash the first footage hinted at (duck your head forward), while the game's Time Crisis-style assortments of enemies require you to dodge to the left or right and even jump behind them in order to cut them down. After years on the Wii Balance Board, it's strange to be allowed to actually jump in a motion-sensitive videogame, and it adds a little strategy to some otherwise fairly straightforward battling.
Star Wars certainly seems expensive - Cloud City gleams brightly while enemy droids wobble around with a strange charisma - and if you're a Star Wars fan, you can expect plenty of familiar faces, with a storyline that will include visits to locations from all six of the films. (I almost said all seven, just to make super-fans angry.) It's simple stuff, but that's probably a smart decision on the side of the developers. I'd heard horror stories about the game's inability to interpret basic movements, incidentally, but my demo, at least, held up very well.
Kinect's second wave isn't all about violence, however. In fact, it's tempting to say that younger kids might have the most to look forward to. After all, they've got serious studios like Double Fine and Frontier working on games for them.
Double Fine's offering comes in the form of Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, a product that is so crushingly sweet-natured, I don't mind admitting I shed a very manly tear the first time I encountered it earlier this year - although it was at the end of a very long day and there was something in my eye, okay? It's a storybook adventure aimed at very young children, and it steps away from the usual Sesame Street stuff of literacy and numeracy to teach basic social skills. I expect to learn a lot.
The game's divided into six chapters, each of which will have roughly six different mini-games. Chapters take about half an hour to complete, and see the gang helping a different monster with a personal problem. Marco, for example, is pretty upset because nobody came to his (her? its?) birthday party, while Grrhoof has a scary face but really wants to make friends. Know the feeling, Grrhoof.
Expect pretty basic games handled with artistic flair. One example sees you reaching around the screen to direct glow-worms over to a tree in order to create a pleasant glittering diorama - not sure how this helps messrs no-friends and ugly-mug, mind - while another has you copying Grrhoof's movements, so that he presumably won't feel like such a social outcast. The Sesame Street gang are rendered beautifully, and the game has just the kind of gentle humour you'd expect from a union of the Children's Television Workshop and the people behind Psychonauts. The kids have lucked in, then.