The Xbox Kinect is specimen of motion-tracking and voice-recognition technology, its awesomeness undermined only by an apparent inability to support no play space other than professionally-lit studios. Apartments, dorms, small game rooms … all have fallen victim to the Kinect’s warehouse-only space requirements. Enter Nyko’s Kinect Zoom, a magnifying glass of sorts that slips over the Xbox Kinect and “shrinks” the play space requirements by half. “For the love of God, somebody’s finally seen the light,” we thought. “Finally, we can play our Kinect without clambering up a wall!”
Then we actually tried the thing. Turns out, the Kinect Zoom makes the Xbox Kinect totally unplayable. It does shrink the required play space in half; at least Nyko can’t be sued for false advertising. What Nyko failed to mention is that the Zoom’s magnifying glass can’t tell the difference between a poke or a swing, and I’m not entirely sure it knows the difference between an arm and a leg.
I tested the Kinect Zoom on four different games, all of which had the same result: spasmodic responses that make on-screen avatars act like they’re having a seizure. Try to aim in The Gunstringer, for instance, and he’ll randomly wave his arm in any direction other than the one you want. Take a crack at Carnival Games, and the barker will flat-out mock your ineptitude as you flounder miserably through each minigame. Every single motion using the Kinect Zoom — no matter how subtle, smooth or calculated — is a spastic mess, and it doesn’t matter what game you play.
At one point I thought the reaction was because the Kinect had been calibrated prior to putting the Zoom on the Kinect sensor, which perhaps led to some motion-detecting inconsistencies. Yet the results were just as horrible even after completely re-calibrating the Kinect sensor after putting-on the Kinect Zoom.
For that matter, I even tried calibrating the Kinect with the Zoom equipped, got disgusting results and removed the Zoom mid-game — without any sort of re-calibration — and immediately got the smooth motions and accuracy you’d expect. Once I put the Zoom back on, though, the games all reverted back to the herky-jerky tripe I started with. Seriously, games with the Kinect Zoom are completely unplayable.
I’ve talked with six other people, including the editor of this very site, and all of us had the same results with the Kinect Zoom. So, I know my experiences weren’t isolated incidents or a consequence of bum hardware. With that in mind, there is zero reason you should buy a Kinect Zoom unless you’re doing so for a practical joke on a crappy roommate. I’m upset with Microsoft for not nailing the play space requirements with the Kinect, but I’ll take that nagging frustration over the horrible experience of the Zoom any day of the week. Nyko could’ve been sitting on a gold mine with the Kinect Zoom. Instead, their engineers were apparently more of the nose-mining type. Stay as far away from the Zoom as possible; it’s peripheral poison.
Score: 2 — I’d give this thing a zero, but it does shrink the play space, so it’s not like Nyko was lying. They just forgot to mention how their product renders Xbox Kinect games completely unplayable.
— Wade Wheeler
Platform reviewed: Xbox 360