Mars Rover Landing: Xbox Kinect Review
Celebrate NASA’s Rover Curiosity dramatically landing on Mars by, well, landing on Mars! Free to download from Xbox Live, Mars Rover Landing the game turns living rooms into space control centres. The mission: to guide shiny Curiosity to her landing site in the Gale Crater on Mars.
Split into three sections, in the first sequence we had to move our body to counter the turbulence and direct the craft as Curiosity entered the Martian atmosphere. With authentic commands and altitude checks from Allen Chen, the Flight Dynamics and Operations Lead for the Mars Science Laboratory Entry, Descent and Landing Team (how does he fit that on his CV?), big movements across the living room were needed to keep the craft within the target so a large playing area is needed. The second sequence had three phases; Parachute deployment, Heat Shield deployment and Back Shield deployment. During each phase there were power charges that needed activating for deployment via timed ‘hits’ with our hands as electricity raced through Curiosity’s veins to four panels. Here the Kinect shows a weakness as it just didn’t seem fast or accurate enough to always register our split second reactions, no matter how many practice goes we indulged in. Being a fraction too early or too late just about got the job done but misjudging it completely meant one of Curiosities five lives was lost (yeah, bit of gaming artistic licence there but come on, we’re not actually working for NASA here). Finally, Curiosity broke free. The final sequence was all about risk or absolute accuracy depending on your point of view and playing preferences! Raising our arms to control the speed of decent AND direction, we ALSO had to watch the fuel gauge. There was no room for dilly-dallying whilst trying to get a perfect landing. We just about made it running on fumes but there was crashing; lots and lots of crashing! We came in too fast, we rolled in on our side, we missed the target, and we ran out of fuel before plummeting to the rocky red surface of Mars. Suddenly, the whole mission seemed incredibly fragile, highlighting how the teeniest tiniest adjustments under pressure are so important. There is so much to go wrong which makes the real life achievement so much more impressive. There are achievements and avatar gear up for grabs as reward for safe landings.
The shout from the control room when we did land was warmly celebratory – we think it okay to whoop at this point. Immediately, the desire to roll off and explore Mars was overwhelming and exciting but sadly the game ends here which was simultaneously annoying and satisfying. It’s a job well done and we’ve two more Earth years to learn what awaits Curiosity on Mars though we do think it’s a shame they didn’t include a section where we could blast rock with Curiosity’s laser eyes. Short and sweet, this is a great interactive way to experience the drama of space exploration and learn more about the Rover. In the menu section there is also information on the landing process, the dimensions of the rover, and the mission details as well as the future ambitions of NASA, all of which have some meaty stats. Definitely one for the curious.
Mars Rover Landing is free to download now from Xbox Live.