"You are the controller." It sounds so simple, so friendly, so patently cool. Take an Xbox 360, plug in the new £130 Kinect motion-sensing camera, devote a few minutes to waving your arms around like a traffic controller, and you're gaming without a gamepad.
It's a little disorienting at first, like stepping onto a balance beam for the first time and Kinect's imprecise, casual approach won't be for everyone, least of all Wii and PlayStation Move fans used to tactile wands and accurate controls. But as a second shot at bringing full body interactivity to the masses (the first was Sony's EyeToy unless we're counting The Clapper) Kinect gets more right than wrong.
Salute, duck, jump
Even if you've fiddled with Nintendo's Wii or Sony's PlayStation Move, Kinect tends to throw you. Instead of wielding gamepads and remotes or wands and gun props you use your entire body as a kind of semaphore, a limb-and-torso command centre scanned and translated courtesy of Kinect's high resolution cameras.
Extend your arms one way to conjure the pause menu. Hold your hand out as if giving a Roman salute, then move it around to manipulate an onscreen pointer. Actually duck to duck, turn around to turn around and jump to jump. Speak a couple words to bring up a navigational hub and access games and Kinect-enhanced applications. Act naturally, in other words and for the most part, Kinect can tell what you're up to.
The trouble is, sometimes it can't. Kinect tends to process slow or exaggerated gestures without a problem, but badly garbles fast or subtle ones. Whether the problem's caused by lag, an algorithmic limitation or insufficient processing power, it translates as moments where Kinect seems to misread or outright ignore you in ways Nintendo and Sony's systems don't.
Sometimes you'll pull off a move in a game when it's clear you goofed, or fail when you should have succeeded and the sensor often overplays a small gesture or underplays an exaggerated one. Perhaps because of these problems, Kinect's games tend to be forgiving by design, which has its demographic flip side: Gaming with Kinect is pretty much "casual" or bust.