The use of avatars is a key part of the appeal. When first introduced, the Xbox 360 avatars were all a bit pointless and “me too” (if not “Mii too”). Kinect has made them an essential part of the experience, just as they are on Wii. At the end of the day, we'd all rather see a cartoon version of ourselves playing table tennis than some muscle-bound goon designed to appeal to some adolescent demographic.
But Microsoft also has a few ideas of its own about how to add fun. For instance, in Kinect Adventures completing a set of events unlocks a living statue, which will follow a pose and lip-synch a boast or a song. You can then save this or upload it to share with friends. Sure, it's silly and pointless, but that doesn't mean it's not a laugh. Other games go big on humiliating photo highlights captured from Kinect's RGB camera or even more embarrassingly, video footage. You'll cringe, you'll cheer, you'll point and chuckle – and that's what Kinect is all about.
Of course, some of these early Kinect titles share that classic Wii problem; they're huge on novelty value, but lacking in long-term appeal. That's the case with Kinect Adventures and Joyride, and we suspect it will be true of others too. However, the system already has a handful of serious system sellers, with the power to do what Wii Sports did for Nintendo. We're talking about the sort of games that people will try, think wow, and want for themselves. On this count, Kinect does pretty well.
One is certainly Kinect Sports. Sure, the track and field events are affected by lag and the table tennis shows up the fact that Kinect can't match Move or Wii MotionPlus for snappy response and accuracy. All the same, there's a decent amount of variety and gameplay in there, and every event is simple to pick up, great fun to play and entertaining to watch.
Dance Central, meanwhile, will be eagerly picked up by the teenage girl/post-pub party crowds. For the first time we have a dance game that – amazingly – relies entirely on your ability to, you know, dance. It's forgiving enough to be fun for the inept or inebriated (or both), but challenging enough to keep those blessed with natural rhythm coming back to show off. It's not quite Rock Band in depth, but it's a very good start.