Monday, January 24, 2011

To Wii or Kinect - That Is the Question!

Our family has been a Nintendo Wii owner for over 2 years now. We've spent hours and hours on our favorite game Mario Kart Wii. I did 70 straight days on the Wii Fit with Balance Board. Wow! We picked up titles like Mario Galaxy that didn't get much play. Then we picked up the new Wii Motion Plus Sensor and Will Sports Resort and fell in love with the play all over again. All in all, a good investment for the family and one that we've made great use of especially when it's too cold to go outside in the winter and too warm to go outside in the summer.

New out is the xBox 360 with Kinect. Poppop asked me what to get the boys for Christmas, and I suggested that the xBox 360 with Kinect would be a good idea, and he got it for us.

The main advertising point for the Wii when it came out was wireless control between the remote and the sensor bar. You could move around. You didn't have to sit attached to a game box. You could burn calories and not be a couch potato.

Kinect did a one upper with wireless communication from your body to the sensor. That's right, no remote (at least most of the time). The sensor would pick up your actual body movements. Think Wii but next generation sensing technology.

We got Kinect Adventures in the box and Kinect Sports and Kinectimals as part of the bundle. We've picked up Sonic Riders too.

So, after a month, what do we think? Which do we like better? What are the pros and cons as we see it?

The Remote or Not...

I don't think holding the Wii remote is a big deal. Neither do the boys. We have acquired 4 remotes, and the biggest problem I have is who gets the blue one (or the white one or the pink one). During game play, there are a few times when the remote and sensor bar lose each other. Annoying but workable. The Wii Motion Plus add-on to the remote and the games that make use of it (an important point), is a definite improvement.

For the xBox set-up, you have to use the game controller. OK. No big deal. Once you get into the games, it's really fun at first to wave at the screen and get it to do things for you. Think scifi movies and humans using computers by just talking to them and waving at the 'monitor', and that's here...NOW. In your home! But on some of the menus incidental arm/hand movements can cause you to pick the wrong things. The games have these wheels that you spin and slide things off of to make choices, and we've spent some time trying to slide back to what we want. Equally annoying to the remote and sensor bar on the Wii getting out of sync.

A Mii or an Avatar?

The Wii has a concept of a Mii; it's a cartoon like representation of you that you see while you're playing. There's a built-in 'game' that lets you build custom Mii's, share them over the internet, etc. The kids love creating new ones for people like SpongeBob. During game play on the Wii Fit Plus, other Mii's created on or downloaded to the unit cheer you on. When Mom pops up as your coach for the Hula Hoop game, that gets a smile very time.

For us, the avatar concept that the xBox incorporates just is not as fun. I have to say in all fairness that I don't think we've spent enough time understanding all that it can do. But, it just doesn't look as personable. We tolerate the avatars that we get during play, and that's about it.

Space - The Play Area Frontier

No, not outer space, the space you need to run the games. The xBox with Kinect says we have Good space (the smaller court) vs. Better space (the bigger court). This is limiting us from making use of 2 player mode for some of the games. The ads and game screens for the Kinect talk about getting rid of the coffee table and moving furniture. Really, they aren't kidding. We have a 10'X10' space in front of our family room TV cleared, and it's sufficient, but more would be better.

The Wii needs about the same amount of space for things like the Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort, but not for things like Mario Kart.

Mostly what I notice with the Kinect is that once it scans you and the area at a certain location, you really do have to stay inside the confines of that rectangle or else it puts up a picture telling you your are too far forward or backward. With fast-paced games and high adventure, I see the kids moving out of range and impacting their game performance quite a bit.

How's the Body Doin'?

To me, more of the xBox Kinect games require jumping and knee bending. I noticed right away during Kinect Adventures that my knees were feeling it. Is it a better workout? Not necessarily. And, I've had my wrists get sore playing Wii Sports tennis. I get a little excited during the volleys. Just be aware that some games are going to require you to work out certain body parts more than others. Pick games that are right for you.

I really need to try out the xBox Kinect version of The Biggest Loser so I can compare it to the Wii Fit. I do know that the Wii Fit has muscle toning, balance enhancing, and aerobic exercises to name a few and that they don't seem to bother my knees.

You're in the Spotlight!

The sensor bar for the xBox 360 Kinect takes pictures:-) Not high quality unfortunately, but pictures of you while you are playing the games none-the-less. We love the 3 snapshots that it shows at the end of each game and the adjectives used to describe the action captured (random I am sure). You can even upload the pictures and then share them on Facebook, etc. Very neat!

It would be nice if the Wii would add a camera:-) But, hey, that's coming from fotomom. Don't do it if it's lousy quality, though; do it right.

Let's Surf!

No, not on a surf board, but on the web. You can surf the web from either system. The Wii uses the Opera browser which is the same as the Nintendo DSi. The xBox 360 uses Windows Media Center and the MCE browser. I've not set that up and see no reason to at this time. It was kindof fun on the Wii to bring up YouTube and play music videos on the TV or go to Picasa and/or SmugMug to see my pics. Apparently the MCE browser for the xBox 360 does not support sound.

In a household without a good PC, the ability to browse on the internet might come into play for more than just a novelty.

Life's a Stream

Well, it is if you're interested in hooking up Netflix and streaming video through the Wii or xBox to your TV. Both units support Netflix. I have it set up for the Wii. My account, for the same cost, will allow me to set it up on the xBox too if I want. Not sure if I'll do that or not.

Having Netflix set-up on the Wii has worked well at our house and been a great option for kids' programming without commercials. I recommend it.

Give Us That Title!

When the Wii first came out, there were only a few titles available for it. Today, there are plenty. It's the same with the xBox 360 with Kinect right now. There are spartan titles available, but I feel sure that will change in the next 6-12 months.

Which Is Right for You?

Well, I don't know. But, I think adding one of these game systems to your house if you don't already have one is a good idea. Try to find a friend that has a Wii that you can play on for a few hours. Do the same for the xBox 360 with Kinect. Both are fun. Both are easy to set-up. The cost is comparable (several hundred dollars). The games themselves cost about the same.