Kinect Nat Geo TV Review
Playing with nature in this first interactive TV title
With Microsoft always looking to expand on what the Xbox 360 offers, from TV Streaming services to movies and of course gaming, it was only a matter of time before a title was released that tried to take advantage of both these mediums. Enter the new Playful Learning program, a brand for games that look to combine interactivity with educational content. One such title is Kinect Nat Geo TV, an interactive video series where players can not only learn about nature but also play a few minigames. While the kid-friendly content is sometimes offset by difficulty, this is a good first entry for the initiative.
Kinect Nat Geo TV (that’s National Geographic, for those still wondering) is essentially a $30 Kinect title that offers eight interactive TV episodes of the popular nature show. Each episode is about 30 minutes of video content but with gameplay can last up to an hour, and focuses on a different animal species. For majority of the time, you’ll be watching rather than playing, since this is a TV-based experience. Like any Nat Geo episode, the shows are both entertaining and informative, while also very kid-friendly. So you can be sure there’s nothing too violent, but the adults may be a bit bored.
The game’s menu is easy to navigate as if you’re watching a DVD, with Kinect, controller, and voice support. Actual gameplay focuses around (as you might expect) minigames. During the course of the episode, you’ll be presented with three sets of activities. All of these actions are heavily promoted in advance so they won’t exactly catch you off-guard. First, players will need to shout “SNAP” at the screen when you’re in the picture-taking phase. As live video rolls, you’re tasked with capturing a couple of snaps of the animals. It’s simple enough, but also hardly feels satisfying.
Episode will roll on, and eventually come to a section where tracks will appear on screen (again, the game ensures you don’t miss it), so go ahead and say “TRACKS” which initiates the second minigame. Here, pop-in video appears that offers extra content to the main episode as if you’re watching picture-in-picture extras on a DVD. The main goal here is to answer quiz questions that have two choices by raising one of your arms. The questions can actually be tough and will test how well you’ve been paying attention, which throws a wrench into the otherwise very kid-friendly experience.
After watching some more, the final activity will come up, titled “Go Wild”. Probably the most Kinect-tailored minigame in the whole title, players are required to stand in front of the TV and be transformed into an animal of the episode you’re watching, and then perform some arbitrary tasks. Kids will no doubt get a blast out of seeing themselves as a bear or a lion and move around on screen. The objectives are also tailored to the specific animal, so as a bear you might be shaking three branches and eating bugs, or pouncing on birds as a lion. As you’ll no doubt expect from a Kinect minigame, these activities are mostly about waving your arms like a crazy person. Some minigames are definitely better than others in this regard.