The Kinect has been many things since its release. We've seen our share fair share of every type of game, from a good dancing game to a bad tank simulator. Now, with the release of Kinect Nat Geo TV, Kinect can proudly say that it is an intuitive and immersive educational tool that utilizes the technology of the Kinect the right way.
Kinect Nat Geo TV is great for the whole family. It's being called a 2-way TV experience, and it loves up to that description. You're literally watching and interacting with actual episodes of Nat Geo WILD, hosted by Casey Anderson and his grizzly bear Brutus. Yea, the guy owns a bear, and with the ESRB Rating of everyone 10 and up, you don't have to worry about any mishaps. Containing eight 30-minute episodes, Casey teaches you about animals and the wild that they live in through Yellowstone and Alaska. Coming on two discs, the episodes are:
- Expedition Grizzly
- Stalking the Mountain Lion
- Black Bear Invasion
- Wolverine King
- Project Kodiak
- Inside the Wolf Pack
- Yellowstone Spring
- Yellowstone Winter
As you can see, you're going to be doing a lot with bears. So how is it that you interact with the episodes? Multiple ways, actually, with none of them being too difficult. You'll be talking to your Kinect, saying "snap" to capture snapshots of certain things, and saying "tracks" when you see animal tracks on the screen, which brings you to a 'sidetrack' segment where you listen to facts about the animal, and based on those facts try to track it.
You'll also learn things, like Black Bears tearing off the bark of the tree to eat the bugs underneath. Then, you'll play a mini-game based what you learned. The Kinect will take you and another player, and it will turn you into the animal you are learning about. My three-and-a-half year-old nearly freaked out when he saw his body with bear claws and a bear head. We used our whole bodies — our arms to claw at the trees to get the bugs out, and then move our heads to eat the bugs — to get as many points as possible in a time limit. During an episode, you'll get about three of these mini-games, with the last one tying all of the previous ones together. These are by far the highlight of the game and the thing that will have kids screaming with joy in the living room.
You get stars for every interaction you have in the episode. The goal is to level up your animal badge from bronze to platinum by earning stars in these mini-games and events. While it's easy to get a star for taking a snapshot or the sidetracks, the mini-games can be a bit challenging — even with two players — to get the points required for three stars. Even if you get a question wrong or get one star in a mini-game, the game is very positive and encouraging — something I find great for kids.
Let's say you and your kids don't want to go through a whole episode, and instead want to just play the mini-games, you can access the mode "Go WILD" from the main menu. Go WILD lets you just play the mini-games. You can be a Mountain Lion and pick up your cubs in your mouth and then drop them into their den, or you can be a bear and swat at hives for honey while avoiding bees. It's a great, family-friendly way to release some energy.
I said that my three-and-a-half year-old enjoyed the Go Wild part, but he lost interest when just watching an episode. So while younger kids can play it and enjoy it, I see how it's meant for kids closer to the 10-year-old mark. I can't really comment on the graphics or music, seeing as how 90 percent of the game is actual Nat Geo WILD episodes.
Kinect Nat Geo TV is truly a 2-way TV experience. It's the perfect way for the whole family to spend time together while learning and having fun. If your kids aren't really into animals and nature, most of this game won't really hold this attention, so be warned. That being said, Kinect Nat Geo TV is a great direction for the Kinect and Xbox 360 to go. Interactive 2-way TV has a bright future if it builds upon the foundation laid down by Kinect Nat Geo TV.
You can follow Movies and Culture Editor Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ