KINECT US

We gave away our Wii machine because you had to hold a controller in your hand while you used it. Sometimes it would fly out of your hand during vigorous games. It also kept telling us how badly we were doing.

It’s a relief to find that the new Microsoft “Xbox Kinect” is kinder and more forgiving. When we flubbed a move on the Kinect game “Dance Central,” it said, “Let’s move on.” And then another time: “I saw a guy yesterday who was worse than you.”

One of the main selling points of the Wii (pronounced wee) was that it provided a way to exercise while playing a game. The Kinect does the same thing, but much better. Well, that’s to be expected really: both time and technology have marched on.

The Kinect is pretty wild. You wave your arms, feet and body and the device follows your motions — without holding a controller. Some games come with the set, and we’ve been river rafting, flying through obstacles and plugging leaks in a fish tank menaced by giant hammerheads. A built-in camera took pictures of some of our best moves and these show up on the TV as a series of still shots.

If you already have an Xbox, you can add the Kinect motion sensor for $150.  A new four gigabyte Xbox with the sensor and “Kinect Adventures” is $300. Additional games are expensive, about $50 each and there are only 15 available right now. (Twenty six more have been announced.)  We tend to buy things like this through Amazon, because you can return them within 30 days if you don’t like them.

On the down side: The menus are confusing, and you need a Windows Live ID, an Xbox Live Profile and a Kinect ID just to get started. The first time we played “Kinect Adventures,” the built-in game, we were asked to download an update, but the machine didn’t recognize our “OK.” Forty minutes on the phone with tech support didn’t solve it. We just kept trying things and the update finally came in. Our other game, Dance Central, did the same thing, freezing on the download screen. We had to cancel the update to get back to the game.  Playing a game takes up too much space for a dormitory room, but it’s fine in most homes if you can move furniture out of the way.

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