When Microsoft introduced its motion-sensing Kinect peripheral for Xbox 360 in 2010, it faced a fair deal of criticism when it came to some of the more general releases for the device. But don't be fooled – it still managed to outperform a number of poor second-rate Wii releases, while at the same time leaving the PlayStation Move in the dust with better mobility and the involvement of the entire human body, compared to moving around your wrist with a glowing wand.
There are a certain number of games that deserve recommendation over others, mainly because the developers behind said efforts have a better idea of what motions can be used for in games. Some of them even work better than expected, like with Fruit Ninja Kinect, a game originally inspired to be a touch-screen favorite, but then converted into a cool party game where you move your arms around like swords.
Without further ado, here are our favorite games for the Kinect, downloadable and retail…
Child of Eden (Ubisoft)
From the mind of video game producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his team over at Q Entertainment comes a game that feels like a spiritual successor to his previously released Rez, while, by the same token, presenting a game experience that really makes you feel like part of the action. Child of Eden whisks you through a number of virtual worlds in the hopes of saving a natural digital beauty, who's about to be corrupted by forces that she cannot control.
Each level feels like you're wandering through a magical place, from flowers that spurt out of the ground to huge gears that, when attacked, will open up a new area for you to explore. However, there are dangers lurking, requiring you to move around an on-screen cursor with your arms, firing one of two shot types as you destroy projectiles and enemies. This game can be played with a controller as well, but you owe it to yourself to try it with motion controls first, just to get a "feel" for it. It's available for moderately cheap these days, so we highly recommend it.
Dance Central 3 (Harmonix/Microsoft)
Harmonix, normally known for making you rock out with plastic instruments for its Rock Band games, really grasped the idea of making a strong dancing game with its Dance Central series, picking a number of songs that really made you want to move your feet, whether on your own or dancing with a partner. However, with Dance Central 3, they're really maximizing the potential, expanding the party options and adding a number of great new songs, taken from various eras over the past few years.
The goal of Dance Central 3 is to basically enter a "time machine", going from the 70's to the 80's and so forth, getting down in each era before you eventually make your way back to the present day. While it's hardly what you might call a fulfilling story, it does provide some great entertainment, along with tunes you'd never thought you would be dancing to. So don't be embarrassed if you're grooving along to the Backstreet Boys. We won't tell if you don't. Look for this game in October.
The Gunstringer (Microsoft)
When Microsoft picked up the development team at Twisted Pixel, it probably didn't have any idea it could provide magic for its Kinect device. But that's exactly what it did with The Gunstringer, a game that takes the thrill of third-person shooting and adds a humorous story and plenty of fun situations to blast through. Seriously, though, what else did you expect from the team behind the Splosion Man games? Normalcy?
In The Gunstringer, you play a gun-toting marionette wronged by a number of criminals (including the most evil wavy balloon guy you've ever met), and set out to gun them down across a number of missions. The gameplay is excellent, making the most out of motion-based aiming and shooting, and the graphics are rich and colorful, like a cartoon brought to life. What's more, Twisted Pixel even offered a special, free DLC pack featuring Troma Studios' Lloyd Kaufman and company in a hilarious Mad Dog McCree rip-off. If you don't check out this game, you're really missing out on rootin' tootin' fun.
Kinect Sports (Microsoft)
We know that sports compilations are big hits on consoles, judging by what we've gone through with our hours' worth of sessions in Wii Sports. However, Rare helped Microsoft expand upon the idea with Kinect Sports, a compilation featuring some great activities to take part in, including soccer, beach volleyball and, our personal favorite, bowling.
Each activity is surprisingly fun to play, though there are slight limitations so that they focus on specific body movements. No matter. Not only do they get your movements calculated correctly, but they also catch you in live-action on camera, so you can see how ridiculous you look. What's more, they've added some good song choices to bump up the excitement from each event, whether you're scoring a strike or getting the ball in the goal. And no matter your skill level, you'll be able to take part with no problem. The original Kinect Sports can be found for dirt cheap, and its follow-up, Kinect Sports Season 2, isn't too shabby either.
Sesame Street's Once Upon a Monster (Warner Bros. Interactive)
Though a Sesame Street-licensed game may not sound like it would be appealing for all ages groups at first, you're bound to be more understanding once you realize it comes from Tim Schafer and his team at Double Fine Entertainment. They take a story that, in the wrong development hands, would be too sanitized for its own good, and instead make it quite entertaining, no matter what your age level may be.
Featuring Cookie Monster, Elmo, and a number of other likable monsters that you run into over the course of your journey, Once Upon a Monster features light, humorous dialogue, great situations where you really make use of your arms and legs, and a terrific fantasy world, with plenty of new sights to see. Even if you think you've outgrown the likes of these monsters, you should still give Once Upon a Monster a look. It's definitely worth a purchase in the $20 range, where it's sitting right now. And, seriously, who can deny Cookie Monster? That's right, no one!