Photo by Jonathan Ore (Click to enlarge)

The Toronto Xbox Kinect Experience

The Toronto Xbox Kinect Experience
Photo by Jonathan Ore (Click to enlarge)

Microsoft opened The Kinect Experience this weekend in Toronto, taking up a large space directly across from the Eaton Centre at Yonge and Queen. The entire space resembled the Kinect booth at Fan Expo Canada last month, but on a much larger scale. Kinect logos and slogans covered the walls on both stories of the building, along with the trademark purple and green swirls all over. Televisions played promo videos on repeat, and a DJ provided beats loud enough to attract attention up and down Yonge Street.

There were large areas set up with Xbox 360′s playing launch titles announced so far, including Kinect Adventure, which comes with the Kinect hardware, as well as Kinect Sports, and Joy Ride (the one where you pretend to hold a Wii Wheel). Third party standouts Dance Central (Harmonix) and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved (Ubisoft) were also present. Kyle Guttormson, the manager for The Experience, noted that more games will be available upon the November 11 launch.

The Toronto Xbox Kinect Experience
Photo by Jonathan Ore (Click to enlarge)

I also asked him about the possibility of gaming with both a regular 360 controller and the Kinect sensor, and he mentioned that some games in the future will carry the label “Better with Kinect,” meaning it will enhance the experience but will not be mandatory to play them. He said he was unable to mention any specific titles.

I only got to try Adventure and Your Shape, but the booth will be around in Toronto until December 1, so don’t be surprised if I get out a few more hands-on previews in the next month, along with whatever other events The Experience may have planned for us.

The river raft game in Kinect Adventure isn’t new if you’ve been following Kinect coverage since this year’s E3. Two players have to lean and jump to navigate their inflatable raft down a horribly dangerous river rapid. The rushing water was very impressive on the large HDTV’s. The main thrust behind this game is the need for teamwork; occasionally I would lean in the opposite direction of the Experience employee demoing the game with me, and we would promptly crash into a rock.

The Toronto Xbox Kinect Experience
Photo by Jonathan Ore (Click to enlarge)

I also tried out the “20,000 Leaks” game, where two players are placed in a large glass box at the bottom of the ocean. Ignoring the impossibility of such a situation thanks to air pressure, the box is assaulted by fish, sharks, and other sea life forming cracks in the glass. You’re supposed to manoeuvre your hands and feet to plug the gaps until they disappear. It quickly becomes out of control where you’re flailing your arms and legs to stop a dozen leaks at once.

Leaks” makes good use of the entire play area. If you just wave your hands in a small radius, you’re done for. You’re required to really lean to the sides, upward and downward, not to mention move your feet anywhere within about a five-foot-square area to plug gaps on the floor of your impossible submersible. The guys at the Experience promised 20 games to ship on the Adventure disc, but only a handful were playable at this time.

Last, I tried out Ubisoft’s Your Shape. The only demo available at the time was the boxing simulation that was seen at E3 and other events since. You have to punch the blocks as they appear – the faster you do it, the more points you score. It simulated a light boxing exercise session quite well, although the camera didn’t really distinguish high- and medium-height attacks. If a box appeared to the right, all I had to do was jab or lunge with my left arm and a hit would register. The most impressive part of Your Shape so far is the strange body-scan it displays on the screen. I could pick out the pouches on my cargo pants and even a faint outline of my glasses’ frames on the red and orange doppelganger that stood before me. Such accuracy will probably be more useful in the yoga portion of the game, which judges how well you can hold your poses and positions.

The Toronto Xbox Kinect Experience
Photo by Jonathan Ore (Click to enlarge)

The Kinect Experience was packed with people who were attracted inside from the street. Boys and girls in high school were demoing alongside working adults and parents with small children. They all seemed to be having a lot of fun, especially at the Dance Central booth which I’m thus far terrified to attempt. Now, if the same people will enjoy it enough to drop $150 for just the hardware, Microsoft could have the number one must-have item for this holiday season.

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  • David Doel

    Damn, wish I saw this earlier and I would have accompanied my girlfriend to Eaton’s Centre. Is this opened every day or was this just a specialized event?

  • Jonathan

    The Experience is going to be open seven days a week until December 1. I’m not sure how the place is going to change after the Kinect actually appears in stores November 11, though.

  • Bryan

    I’m in Toronto for a day to attend the Sony Holiday event and just noticed the Kinect place as I am sitting in Starbucks across the street. 10am and it hasn’t had any signs of opening soon though… Hopefully after the Sony show it’ll open!