It hasn’t taken long for video games to evolve from “insert coin” to “wave your hand.” Four years after the Wii revolutionized game operation, more big systems are following suit with new motion-control offerings. They promise greater precision and excitement, but are they really worth jumping off the couch? We tested the three major systems to see which is the most accurate and, of course, the most fun.
THE TECHNOLOGY The Wii’s remote controller can sense basic wiggles and swipes, but it lacks an iPhone-style gyroscope to detect precision details, such as its held angle. MotionPlus, which now comes with every new Wii, adds functionality by plugging into the Wii-mote.
DOES IT WORK? Yes, but its intense precision is limited. Your on-screen sword and tennis racket move exactly the way you hold the controller, but MotionPlus won’t sense, say, hops and leaps around your living room.
IS IT FUN? Sure, for the few games that support it. Though MotionPlus has been available for some time, it currently works with fewer than 10 games, though those are among the Wii’s best (including the hyperaccurate Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’11 and the adventurous Red Steel 2).
KINECT FOR XBOX 360
(available Nov. 4)
THE TECHNOLOGY Stand in front of Kinect’s infrared cameras, and the system will translate your silhouette to the game. Up to two players can participate at once, moving their bodies to virtually pet tigers, steer cars and more.
DOES IT WORK? Somewhat. In high-speed games like Kinect Adventures!, your real-life dodges and ducks register on the screen with a tiny delay — but it’s enough to feel awkward. Other games do a better job of disguising that limitation, like Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, which analyzes workout motions with pixel-perfect accuracy, and Dance Central, which sees you dancing along to music-video classics.
IS IT FUN? Definitely, so long as you don’t mind standing up (all games available so far require getting on your feet). Even with technical hiccups, Kinect still delivers the most unique games of this season, and kids will be mesmerized.
PLAYSTATION MOVE FOR THE PS3
THE TECHNOLOGY Sony’s new motion system borrows ideas from both Kinect and MotionPlus. You wave Wii-style controllers in front of a camera.
DOES IT WORK? Defi nitely. Move’s camera tracks the controllers’ colored bulbs, so it senses sword angles, dodges and hops. Even so, it had trouble sensing more complex maneuvers on some games, such as The Fight: Lights Out.
IS IT FUN? Somewhat. Some of Sony’s new games, like Kung Fu Rider, would play better with an old joystick. Others, like Start the Party, feel remarkably similar to years-old Wii hits. Hopefully, Move’s accuracy will be matched with a standout game in the near future; the strange puzzler Echochrome 2 is a hopeful start.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM
Retro revamps breathe new life into gaming
classics. By Scott Steinberg
Everything old truly is new again, thanks to a tidal wave of retro video game remakes from Splatterhouse to NBA Jam, which let players readily revisit treasured childhood heroes and adventures. Mind you, software emulators like MAME (arcade), DOSBox (PC) and ZSNES (Super Nintendo) already provide immediate access to timeless games, as do “abandonware” websites fi lled with discontinued classics (though the legality of such sites is dubious). And digital download services such as GOG.com, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live and the Wii’s Virtual Console can further let you relive old-school smashes on demand.
But from big-budget series reboots (Mortal Kombat) and downloadable updates (Rush’N Attack: Ex-Patriot) to modern releases designed to resemble long-lost ’80s cartridges (Mega Man 10), contemporary debuts offer the chance to rewrite history — something predecessors can’t do. Credit the upsurge to lower development costs and advances in online distribution, which let software publishers profit by dusting off their back catalog and selling direct to nostalgic fans, oftentimes at steep discounts. Some such as Monkey Island 2: Special Edition simply apply new audiovisual makeovers; others, including Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Donkey Kong Country Returns, promise entirely fresh scenarios.
The numerous revamps, which are coming on every platform, are introducing yesterday’s most beloved franchises to an entirely new gaming generation — a high score by any measure.