I had the chance to experiment with the first TV title for Kinect, its quite interesting. If you haven’t heard about these interactive TV episodes, here’s the overview:

Introducing a new kind of reality TV: augmented reality TV! Kinect Nat Geo TV takes Nat Geo’s acclaimed nature TV programming and uses the Kinect motion control experience to immerse you in living virtual environments you can explore and discover. But you won’t visit natural habitats as a person, you’ll morph into a variety of different animals and explore the environments as if you were in the wild. Follow simple commands that prompt movements in mini-games that entertain and teach. It’s an incredible new way to learn about nature, animals, and the planet on which we live.

Overview

I was really curious as to how this was going to work, but the way its setup it’s quite neat. Because it’s interactive, it does get you more involved and I’m not sure if it’s because of my age but actually doing the things made me pay more attention to it and it seemed it was easier to remember. I would say this one is more for people of all ages. I can’t imagine too many toddlers that would be interested in animals when they can have Sesame Street instead.

The Menu

The menu is fairly easy to navigate, it’s setup like a DVD menu. This is a 2 disc title so 4 episodes are on one disc, and the other 4 are on the other. At the top of the menu, you have Home, Disc One, Disc Two and More. Underneath the top menu are your icon menus, with Disc One, Free Download (Kinect Nat Geo TV Live) on the left, a “Main Episode” in the middle, and Disc Two and Party Animal (Mini-Games) on the right. The menu can be controlled via the hover and lock method, with a controller or even voice. All work very well and it was nice to just use whatever to control it.

Disc One/Two

This is your main watching area. Disc One consists of the following episodes:

  • Expedition Grizzly (Meet Brutus and his wild cousins)
  • Black Bear Invasion (Watch Casey Jr. take his first steps)
  • Stalking the Mountain Lion (Check out one of America’s biggest cats)
  • Wolverine King (Journey deep into the frozen wilderness)

Disc Two contains the following episodes:

  • Project Kodiak (Bring a bear-size appetite)
  • Yellowstone Spring (Become an owl expert)
  • Inside the Wolf Pack (Come join the pack)
  • Yellowstone Winter (Take a trek into the backcountry)

Now the way this works is once you start an episode, you are given a brief introduction of how it works since this is interactive TV and new for the most part. After it starts, you are usually first presented with taking pictures as part of your first interaction. What you have to do is shout “SNAP” when you know what your target is. Most of the snapshots are either 2 or 3 pictures. It’s fairly simple as long as you take a picture when you are supposed to.

After you take the correct pictures, you are awarded stars. Stars help build up your “animal badge”. Your goal is to get a platinum badge but I’ll be honest, some of these mini-games are challenging, hence why I stated this title is probably for everyone. Anyhow, there’s also these side videos where it’s mostly with tracking the animals and you are presented with an early warning stating to shout “TRACKS” when animal tracks appear on the screen. Doing so loads the sidetrack video and then you just have to pay attention and they are multiple choice, either the left answer is correct or the right. You choose by raising your hand, this works both standing and sitting down on your couch. After it’s done, you go back to the main episode.

The last phase is something they call “Go Wild!” which is the mini-games. You are transformed into an animal and have to do whatever that particular animal naturally does. In my video below, I did the brown bear episode so I had to eat ants by shaking some trees. In some of the other episodes, you have to be a mountain lion and pounce on birds, collect your cubs, etc. They are pretty varied but for the most part, they are somewhat similar. Here’s the video I made of the first part of an episode to give you an idea, I didn’t want to spoil it so I didn’t record the whole thing – also it’s dark because I had all the lights off, otherwise it transforms your room into the wild:

Once you do the Go Wild! part, the process then starts over, you do your snapshots, the sidetracks and then another mini-game. The last part has one more snapshot section, the last sidetrack section and basically combines mini-game 1 and 2 making it quite difficult for the most part. Unfortunately that’s really all the interaction there is but it was good enough for me to keep me interested but I also like these kind of shows. After the episode is over, you are rated on how many stars you earned and then you are awarded with your animal badge.

Kinect Nat Geo TV Download Live

This section allows you to download the Nat Geo app which states, “Every month, get access to a new selection of Nat Geo Wild shows and more, all for free with your Season Pass.” Since I did rent this, I don’t get the season pass unless you buy the title, which the season pass is included. I’m assuming this is only for a year but I’m not certain and I’m not certain if they are actually going to make an episode each month.

Party Animal

This is basically the mini-game assortment. What I didn’t like about it is you can’t choose which mini-games to play, it just randomly picks one for you and then it repeats and picks another one after, whereas in the episodes they kind of go in order so if you haven’t watched all of the episodes, you may get stuck with some of these. All of the mini-games feature simultaneous 2 player as well, although I wasn’t able to test it out.

More

Under the more section, you have your options which allow you to turn hints on or off (so they don’t interfere with the episodes), reset your high scores, delete your saved photos and change your storage device.

There’s also a “More for Kids” which is basically just a commercial for Xbox Live, Kinect and how to keep Xbox Live safe for your kids via privacy settings and what not. After it’s done, you have 2 options, LIVE and Safety Setup and See More Kids’ Games which are just shortcuts to the Xbox Dashboard.

Lastly, the credits are here as well as your achievements. The achievements are fairly easy but at least they have some, I didn’t think there were any.

Conclusion

At first before playing it, I didn’t agree with the price being that I thought this was just like a DVD with some bonus extras, and DVDs typically run around $20USD here in the states new, I thought the $30USD retail price was a little steep, but now that I’ve gone through it, and it includes a season pass for new episodes, it’s worth the price as long as they keep the content new because the 8 included episodes could easily get stale in a week.

It really does get you more involved than just watching a show and like I said earlier, it helped me remember more clearly because I was doing and not just listening. The Nat Geo again, is good for all ages, except maybe your toddlers, they may just want to play the mini-games. I would love to see some more of these though, but not with just Nat Geo, they could get into the space/future documentaries, heck, even regular TV shows could utilize this where you could learn facts about your favorite actors/actresses as an idea.

Anyhow, it’s a cool new way to watch TV and I was quite impressed with this one. If you or your family love animals, this might be something you may want to check out. I’ve never seen this host but I’ve also never watched Wild, but he’s really good and makes you feel like you really are part of the show with them. They did a good job and I’m certain we will have more to come, I can’t wait to find out what they are!


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Kinect Nat Geo TV
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