As always, the maxim “the software sells the hardware” applies. Here, Move has yet to really make its mark. Sports Champions, Sony’s equivalent of Nintendo’s Wii Sports, has superb, responsive motion controls and some great activities, but falls down on presentation. With no Mii-style avatars, only a small selection of generic babes and bruisers, it hasn’t got the charm of Wii Sports, and while the more sophisticated controls make it more attractive to the hardcore gamer, they make it less accessible to the mainstream market.
Meanwhile, Sony’s party games, such as Start the Party and TV Superstars, struggle with a lack of variety and personality. Sony seems to be pitching its Move titles at a slightly older audience than the more kiddie-friendly Wii, but the games can seem like they’re desperately trying to be 'cool’ or 'edgy’ and falling wide of the mark. We hope that Singstar Dance might do a better job, as Move could do with a great party game.
From our early impressions, Kinect has a stronger launch line-up. Xbox Live Avatars are used throughout more mainstream titles like Kinect Adventures and Kinect Sports, and the games are definitely fun to play. There is lag between you moving a limb offscreen and it moving onscreen, but it’s the kind of lag that doesn’t matter when you’re trying to plug holes in an underwater glass tank under siege from grumpy crabs and savage sea-creatures. The accuracy with which your movements are translated is impressive, too.
The events in Kinect Sports - table tennis, volleyball, boxing, football, bowling and track and field - feel like simple, Wii Sports-style games, but they’re easy to pick up and should go down a storm on a dull Sunday afternoon. We might even be warming to Joyride - Kinect’s family-friendly, kart-racing game. Sure, it takes ages to get used to the dodgy cornering, but with multiple play modes and a lot of general silliness, it’s surprisingly entertaining.
Most importantly, Kinect has two real system sellers on its side. Kinectimals, Microsoft’s cuddly big-cat training title, practically oozes charm. With a whole island to explore and a range of activities, ranging from racing radio-controlled cars to frisbee-throwing challenges, it looks set to be a superb family title. It plays to the strengths of Kinect’s voice recognition and motion control.
Dance Central, meanwhile, delivers exactly what you’d expect when Harmonix, the creators of Rock Band, create a dance game: great tracks, a manageable difficulty curve, great presentation and plenty of opportunity to humiliate yourself while slightly tipsy.
Best of all, there’s no layer of abstraction like there is in other dance games. You’re not stepping on squares on a mat or waving a controller around in time to the music; you just dance in front of the telly, and try your best to follow the choreographed moves.