Impressions of Nyko’s new Kinect peripheral the Zoom have been harshly polarized, with some praising the effectiveness of its space-saving design and others lamenting the fact that this promising device seems downright nonfunctional. My own review treads between these two extremes, as I’ve both experienced the highs and lows of this particular device.
My earliest hours with the Nyko Zoom were spent in spectacular frustration. For, you see, even after following the directions spelled out in the device’s Quick Start Guide, the Zoom refused to play nice with my Kinect setup. After some thought, some investigation, and, yes, a few tears, I came to realize that this peripheral simply didn’t jive with my particular gaming arrangement.
My 360 gaming takes place in the den, with my Kinect mounted on top of our 42″ LCD TV. Said television itself rests inside a large entertainment center. Both of these provide specific problems for the Zoom. Between the shadow cast by the media shelf located directly above the TV and a seeming inability of the Zoom to locate the floor through its vaguely fish-eye lens because of the overall elevation, my Kinect activity was reduced to a fruitless series of unplayable gaming activities interspersed with frequent visits to the Kinect Tuner menu.
Eventually I smartened up and moved my gear around. I placed my Kinect/Zoom directly in front of my television, a bit further below the recommended maximum height of 4.5″ and flush with the outer edge of my entertainment center so it could get “the lay of the land.” I walked through the Kinect tuning process once again, and then, believe it or not, it was off to the races.
With the Zoom now fully functional, I was able to take advantage of all that the device has to offer. As advertised, the Zoom both reduced the space needed between players and the Kinect for proper motion tracking and allowed for some increased elbow room for multiplayer activities. As I made my way through our family Kinect library, however, I found that even under optimal conditions some titles worked better than others.
My most successful experiment concerned Kinect Adventures. The full-body tracking needed to play this game worked just as well with Zoom as without. Moreover, I was able to stand a good two feet closer with the Zoom peripheral in place during single player activities, and multiplayer raft races were a bit more enjoyable thanks to the additional six or so inches of extra space between players.
The dedicated hand tracking of my current obsession, The Gunstringer, also worked very well with the Zoom. And although the reduced space between player and Kinect seemed slightly less noticeable, it could well prove a boon for gamers with smaller TVs. The opposite seemed true with virtual pet sim Fantastic Pets; the distorted outer edge of the real-world segments of this game – again provided by the Zoom’s unique lens – appeared to make navigating our living room less of a chore. Unfortunately, it also seemed to make the system’s response to in-game activities like playing fetch with and bathing our miniature dragon significantly less responsive, particularly when my children were involved.
My final and least successful gaming experience was with addictive downloadable game Fruit Ninja Kinect. Whereas my family had previously been slicing its way through this one with the Kinect alone, the addition of the Zoom, even with it in front of the television and with an unobstructed view of the floor, made the game essentially unplayable. For every 30 seconds or so of play time Fruit Ninja would pause for 10 seconds of Kinect calibration. This is particularly frustrating as this was the title that I felt would most benefit from some additional breathing room for its multiplayer sessions.
The bottom line is that the Nyko Zoom will work wonderfully for certain gamers in certain environments playing certain titles. The sad part is that this may or may not be you. In the end, I’ll likely go back to gaming on the Kinect without the aid of the Zoom. Sure, under the best of circumstances it provides markedly better tracking in noticeably tighter spaces than the Kinect alone and the additional width of the visible playing field helps to buffer multiplayer madness, but for me the trade-off isn’t quite enticing enough.
I’d rather play a bit further back and be able to have the convenience of a top-mounted Kinect without the hassle of having to recalibrate during some of my favorite games. Of course your mileage – and the size of your living room – may vary. If you’re seriously suffering from cramped quarters, have a gaming setup that makes it easy to place your Kinect in front of your TV (and right at the edge of its platform) and you don’t mind the occasional hiccup, however, it may be money well spent.
WIRED: easy installation, lets players stand closer to the Kinect, affords a wider viewing angle which makes multiplayer gaming less cramped
TIRED: requires that Kinect be placed in front of television as opposed to mounted on top of it, needs frequent fine tuning to work out gameplay kinks, doesn’t seem to work with all Kinect titles
Review materials provided by: Nyko