Along with the recent launch of Kinect Sesame Street TV: Season Two, Microsoft Studios are pursuing their ‘2-way TV Experience’ brand with another chapter of Relentless Software’s Kinect Nat Geo TV. Aimed at a slightly older audience than the aforementioned interactive puppet show, Kinect Nat Geo TV: Season Two is the most modern definition of ‘edutainment’ imaginable.
The second season follows much of the template established by the original. Adding new content to the existing Xbox 360 app, players will welcome a series of eight new episodes each lasting around forty minutes. The theme here has changed from the cool mountain regions of North America to the swamplands of the southern states, and as such is covering a very different series of animals.
A new host (who also works on the television shows), Brady Barr, introduces each episode in a gracefully pleasant manner, encouraging participation whilst never deterring from the fact that this is a documentary you are watching, and as such there may be many players who simply want to treat Kinect Nat Geo TV: Season Two as if it were any other television show. And therein lies the beauty of the ‘2-way TV Experience,’ allowing players to be as energetic or passive as they so wish, even changing their involvement within a single episode.
The interactions are more strictly structure than those of Kinect Sesame Street TV, with sequences set aside solely with the intention of acting as mini-game breaks between the subtle wildlife lessons. Placing the player in an active role during the Go Wild sections, simplistic actions such as splashing the water to make fish jump, followed by catching them in your superimposed alligator mouth, these mini-games are the most active part of Kinect Nat Geo TV: Season Two. Additionally there are the photography sections – simple challenges that require you to shout ‘picture’ when the desired object and/or animal is in view – and the Sidetracks, which offer more information on the specific subject currently being discussed, but only if the player has been paying attention thus far.
The level of interaction offered is reasonable in respect to the fact that it is just that: offered. There is no limit to how you go about these simple tasks, whether it be striving for a Platinum medal at the end of each episode or ignoring them altogether. This is the beauty of Microsoft Studios’ interactive television platform; after all the gadgetry and interactive sidesteps, it remains a television entertainment product underneath.
Just as it was back in September last year, Kinect Nat Geo TV remains a fantastic example of the kind of innovative experiences that are available when motion-control devices are used properly. This isn’t a mini-game compilation or an interactive movie akin to the 1990s fad celebrating the birth of CD storage on videogame consoles; this is the best of those ideas modernised and packaged for an audience that cares what they buy into rather than simply adopting a family videogame for the holidays. Kinect Nat Geo TV: Season Two was never going to be as groundbreaking as its predecessor, but that it has managed to equal it is enough of a reason to be backing Relentless Software’s effort once again.