Kinect Nat Geo TV: America the Wild can be played straight from the two discs or via the Kinect Nat Geo TV app. The app serves as a central hub to all the available content whereas the discs only contain the interactive episodes of season 1. By using the season pass packaged with the retail game you can gain a years access to all the content available in the app and a digital copy of Season 1. Currently season 1 is the only season with interactive episodes, but there are a further 5 series of on demand content available via the app each with 5-7 episodes, these include America the Wild, World’s Weirdest, Sharks, Pets and Caught in the Act. Each month a new selection of Nat Geo Wild shows will be made available. The season pass can also be bought for 2400 MS points or you can download a single episode for 400 MS points, go ahead and download the app and try out the free trial episode.
The discs launch into a similar hub as the app, based upon Microsoft’s Metro tiling system, minus the access to the on demand video episodes. Each disc contains 4 interactive episodes of the series ‘America the Wild’ which is presented by Casey Anderson and his 800-pound grizzly bear Brutus, who my 14mth old son was enthralled with. Each episode lasts around 30 minutes and you will learn all about each of the featured animals – what they eat, their habitats and their general lifestyle in the wild. Throughout each show you are encouraged to join in by completing tasks set out to you including finding sidetracks and taking pictures.
At key moments throughout each show you are given a heads up when there is audience participation. Shouting “snap” will take a picture for your photo assignment – leave it too long and you will miss your chance, there’s no indication of how long you have to make your choice, you do however have multiple chances to take the correct shot in the allotted time. When tracks appear on the screen call out “tracks” to launch a sidetracks video that teaches you something extra about the habits of the animal you are tracking – you need to listen to what’s being said because Casey will be asking several questions during each of the sidetrack videos. It’s this level of interaction that will keep your little ones engaged with what essentially is a documentary rather than the usual cartoons they may be accustomed to. You won’t even need to keep standing in front of your TV – as long as Kinect can see your arm actions you can sit comfortably and watch the show, at times you will need to stand up to play the mini games in each episode.
The mini games are quite simple but they are a lot of fun with the final mini game being a combination of the previous two. Each mini game superimposes the animal’s natural habitat into your playing space and then transforms you into that animal by placing a mask and paws over your body. The games are mainly of a Kinect Fruit Ninja style set; manically throwing your arms around works pretty well – little ones will love it. Other games will have you dodge, picking things up and eating meat. It’s all quite amusing and like the interactive episodes it’s well presented. I particularly found the Bear brawling quite amusing – punching other bears and blocking their attacks, it may sound bad but I guess that’s what happens out in the wild! The mini games won’t keep an older gamer happy for hours and days on end, but for small children it’s pitched perfectly and to be honest it’s pretty tough to score the full 3 medals that are possible for each game.
As you complete each interactive challenge you are awarded medals which go into a total meter, fill the meter to get a bronze, silver, gold or platinum medal. Completionists might need to play the episodes multiple times should they miss a medal opportunity.
Outside of the interactive episodes there are a set of “Go Wild” mini games, which is appropriate as most of the mini games involve you throwing your arms around! The majority of these are taken straight from those that are found within the interactive episodes and unfortunately you aren’t able to select them individually.
The disc really serves as access to season 1 for those without a web connection, but in a day where most people have the Internet the discs are a bit redundant in what essentially could be a digital only package. I’m interested to see if any other interactive seasons become available during the lifetime of my season pass, should this be the case then Nat Geo is incredible value for money, although even if it is just Season 1, at only £19.99 the package is still brilliantly priced for 8 interactive episodes with access to a further 25 on demand video episodes. Achievement hunters will also be kept very happy because there is 1000 gamerscore for the Kinect Nat Geo TV DVD and a 1000 gamerscore from the Kinect Nat Geo TV app to hunt.
Casey is a likeable character who presents the show brilliantly; your little ones will enjoy watching the wild animals and partaking in the interactive episodes. The presentation of the overlays across the screen is excellent and adults will undoubtedly enjoy watching and playing the game with their children especially if they share an interest in wild animals. TV with Kinect has been a surprising and thoroughly enjoyable experience, if you have kids I highly recommend you check Kinect TV out, I’m looking forward to seeing how far Microsoft roll out this excellent entertainment coupling.