The Kinect was supposed to be Microsoft’s foray into the world of motion-controlled gaming. Originally released at a time when the Nintendo Wii was the most popular game console for mainstream gamers, it never found the success it deserved. Microsoft tried again with Xbox One and still the device is collecting dust.
That is, until Fru released in summer of 2016. Read on to find out how this little gem of a game revived my faith in the Kinect and more importantly showcases why the device deserves another chance on Xbox Two.
Fru: The Little Game That Could
This little-known game is one of the only Kinect exclusive titles to release in some time. It’s also sadly one of, if not, the last one we’ll see on Xbox One. Here’s the problem with that:
Fru is Fantastic!
This game proves that the Kinect has potential, if only it were given the talent and support it needs. Read on to find out why I believe the third time’s the charm with Kinect, and why it should get another chance on Xbox Two (Project Scorpio).
So, what makes Fru so special, I hear you ask? Let’s start with a look at the game itself. Check out the screenshot below.
Fru is a game where you guide a small character through side-scrolling levels much like you would in a classic Mario game. The twist comes in how your body interacts with the game via the Kinect. When playing the game, you’ll see your silhouette standing in front of the environment.
As your body moves across the levels, you’ll be able to reveal invisible platforms, or create obstacles for your character. By moving yourself to create paths for the main character, or get out of their way, you are then able to use the controller in your hand to navigate the area.
It starts simple, but the game slowly ramps the difficulty. You’ll find yourself balancing on one foot or using your hand to create a platform for the game’s character. This level of interaction between a classic side-scrolling game and the real world is what makes Fru so amazingly unique.
The Kinect’s best games usually apply this kind of full body experience. Another example is Dance Central, which also tracks you from head-to-toe. Kinect’s best moments are when full body motion is combined with innovative gameplay.
The game’s platforming is fairly simple, which is a blessing when you’re playing a videogame version of Twister by holding your arm out while balancing on one foot. Unlike most other Kinect games, Fru doesn’t rely on the premise of your body revealing platforms or obstacles the whole game.
In the second of the game’s four areas, your body becomes a bubble of water. Watch as the main character jumps into your silhouette and swims through you to their destination. It’s quite unique. In the third area, you’ll use your body to hit switches in the level, and the fourth pits you against molten lava.
The game suffered a few delays, presumably because the developers were wrestling with the Kinect. In the end, though, it works flawlessly. Fru is easily one of the best performing Kinect games ever made.
The true problem with Kinect from the beginning was developers not having a complete understanding, or more importantly, a powerful enough device to create the experiences they wanted. The jump in quality from the first Kinect to Kinect 2.0 is noticeable, but a Kinect 3.0 would be the pinnacle of Microsoft’s vision.
We already know that Xbox One S won’t work with Kinect unless you have an adapter, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming that Project Scorpio/Xbox Two will offer a Kinect 3.0.
Why Xbox Two (Project Scorpio) Should Introduce Kinect 3.0
Motion gaming has fallen to the wayside, but the technology isn’t down for the count. With the rise of virtual reality, we’re seeing a need for this type of tech. Whether we’re looking at the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, or even the PlayStation VR, all of them have some sort of camera or tracking device.
This is the secret ingredient that makes VR work. Since these games boast the ability to track your head movements as you look around the environments, a camera is needed to follow your movements and translate that into the game.
We know for certain that Project Scorpio (Xbox 2) will use virtual reality. If Microsoft takes a page from Sony’s playbook, they’ll use pre-existing technology to create the camera they need. PlayStation has the PS4 Camera for this purpose, but Microsoft has the unique opportunity here to tweak the Kinect further and use it to power their VR headset of choice.
You could counter this by saying that a more simple camera would also do the job, and you’d be right, but after playing Fru I feel like there’s too much left in terms of the Kinect’s potential for it to be left on the table.
Not taking into consideration the money Microsoft has poured into the device, we have to consider how far this technology has come since the days of the Nintendo Wii. With an enhanced Kinect 3.0, Xbox Two (Project Scorpio) could not only power a VR headset, but it could also support the best games the Kinect has ever seen.
A combination of the right technology and the right approach like we saw with Fru could really give Microsoft a powerful combination of VR and motion gaming options. While I know this could easily go either way, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Fru and I firmly believe that the Kinect still has life left in it.
As of April 2016, Microsoft said they still have some cool stuff planned for the Kinect on Xbox One like Cortana and the like. It’s hard to say what they mean by that, but if Fru is any indication, let’s hope they don’t abandon the device.
It just needs the support it deserves and the technology to make it happen. The ball’s in your court Microsoft, make me proud.
Have you played Fru on the Xbox One? Would you like to see a Kinect 3.0 on Project Scorpio/Xbox 2? Let us know in the comments!
Note: The thoughts expressed in this article are the opinions of the author (Bradley Ramsey) and do not yet represent facts or the opinions of Microsoft. Although it will probably be accurate, for now it is pure speculation. Thanks for reading!