Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Relentless Software
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Rating: E (ESRB) / 7 (PEGI)
Here at Game-Modo we were offered the chance to have a play around with a new kind of educational gaming from the highly acclaimed Relentless Software and National Geographic. Pretty much everyone on the planet is familiar with National Geographic and their tireless work in bringing the outdoors into our homes with award winning success. Now they are endeavoring to bring their stories of the wild not only onto our homes but through our Xbox 360 and using Kinect. NAT GEO TV has become an app that is available through the Xbox Live Marketplace and from there you can purchase a season pass or purchase each Episode that the Americans call ‘Seasons’. Slightly confusing, but that’s the way it goes.
So initially I was slightly sceptical about how much fun I would have with such software. Would it be enough to keep a seasoned gamer like myself adequately entertained or would it have me writhing in boredom and shoving the child of the house in front of Kinect while I play with my phone?
Initially I was impressed with one thing, and it wasn’t the game. The Kinect camera seemed to pick up my movements remarkably well and I wasn’t sure if there had been some tweaks to the software or I just had the ambient lighting in the room spot on. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Kinect because of the poor responsiveness and time lag, and as I’m overly sensitive to those issues I noticed an improvement straight away. I just hoped it wasn’t a fluke and the good responses from Kinect stayed with me throughout the NAT GEO experience.
I skipped forward a few ‘levels’ in the game and tried out the Alligator episode. I was welcomed by herpetologist and veteran American Alligator hunter Brady Barr. It didn’t take long to grow huge amounts of respect for this man who has balls of steel. The stage for chasing down these huge creatures is in the state of Florida, at first I felt like I was back at school as the tone of voice from Brady felt just like a program taken from the Disney channel, but as this is really targeted at children I soon accepted that and had to mentally revert in time about 20 years in my head to a primary school mentality. Strangely enough, and much to my female counterpart’s expectations, it wasn’t that difficult.
We followed Brady on an adventure through the woodland and swamps of Florida and while being educated on alligators and crocodiles a few mini games are seamlessly incorporated into the adventure. Using your voice you have to interact with specific scenes to take pictures, or shout when icons appear to follow a trail. There are also points in the story that give your mind a little rest and introduce some real interactivity with a mini game. On this adventure, seeing as it’s all about alligators, you are taught how alligators sometimes catch fish by hitting the water with their huge feet, (or paws, or, what are they? Feet or paws?) scaring the fish and making them jump from the water. This is where you become an alligator in ‘Go Wild’. Kinect puts you in the water and gives you an alligator’s front legs and head. Using your arms to make the largest splashes when the fish come into view and moving your head to snap up as many as you can in the time given. It all sounds really simple, and it actually is but the amount of fish you catch gives you a score (1 to 3 stars) which accumulates over the show to allow you to earn the animal badge. You just have to ask yourself ‘How badly do you want that badge?’ I attempted it about six times for the best score and in the end settled for 2 stars. Exhaustion got the better of me, I’m ashamed to say. An actual child has a lot more energy and may play these mini game sections over and over until they reach 3 stars if they really wanted the badge, or children could probably do it in fewer attempts now I come to think of it. There’s also the option of ‘jump in’ multiplayer but no one in my vicinity was willing to become an alligator…ugh, stupid grown ups!
As the episode draws to a close I have to admit that I actually had fun playing. I also learned a few things about alligators and crocodiles, first of all and most important – whenever I’m near any wetland in Florida, carry a shotgun and a few trusty frag grenades as these things grow to be huge!
NAT GEO TV is definitely a way to have fun family adventures and also learn a little about nature at the same time. Whether you want to want to have a giggle at the kids or pretend to be a child yourself and play along NAT GEO TV doesn’t have any age limits, physical or mental. The only negative thing I can really think of is; does it have replay-ability? From an adult’s point of view, probably not, but from a child’s point of view…who wouldn’t want to be an alligator whenever I want? SNAP!
NAT GEO TV doesn’t play by the generic rules of scoring a game. Usually we reviewers score graphics, sound, and gameplay. As most of it is like a video with interactivity, it’s a little different. So how do I score it? Well, I suppose I’ll just say NAT GEO TV is fun, and any game that has that has as an end conclusion must be worth a try.