Kinectimals; possibly one of the most public-friendly Kinect launch titles. Those cute little balls of fur give you the chance to bond with normally vicious wild cats and go on an adventure. It’s an obvious winners for kids and casual female gamers but does it actually deserve it’s good press? Obviously, we’ve seen similar novelty pet games in the past, none of which had lasting appeal. So where does this stand? To be frank it kicks Nintendogs and EyePet’s respective virtual butts!
Contains way more than expected
For all its cutesy pretty exterior, there is actually a game hidden underneath the layers of fur. Despite what a lot of people would have you believe this is NOT just a tech demo. At the start of the game you get to pick your cub from a selection of lions, leopards and similar. With the wonders of Kinect you can then name your pet so it remembers the sound of its name. This is a lovely touch, even if it’s not 100% accurate all the time. The frustration melts away when your pet actually reacts, and you can always re-teach the name if it didn’t take. Then it’s off to play… and also to start solving the mystery of the captain’s treasure!
Your helpful guide in the game world is Bumble (possibly some sort of rodent with wings, that happens to have stripes like a bee). This is possibly the one let down for those over the age of ten. He does have an annoying squeaky voice and tells you it’s easy to do tricks that I just don’t seem to have the agility for! Luckily he doesn’t talk THAT much and sometimes appears silently to remind you of the actions needed to make your cub do a certain trick.
The tricks vary from a simple jump (until you unlock the Matrix bullet-time jump) to the Kinectimal Shuffle (a complex series of moves I can never remember). However, when practicing you’ll get a reminder if you’re completely clueless. It’s good to see that the cubs doing Barrell Rolls doesn’t mean that you have to do them too. However, if the actions are too tiring for you they have put in voice commands. Again, it’s not perfect, but with some persistence you’ll discover what is needed to get across what you want. This could be essential for some gamers as some competitions can be surprisingly physical.
You progress in the game by completing various mini-games with your cub and teaching it tricks. The mini-games include football, volleyball, flying discs, skipping, assault courses, remote control vehicles and many more. Although you could be fooled into thinking this is an easy 1,000 gamerscore the games get a lot more taxing as you progress through the areas and you’ll likely find yourself out of breath after a long assault course! All the games feel very natural to play if you have a sensible play space and there’s plenty to make you smile (driving my cub around on the back of a Halo warthog is awesome!).
Candy for your eyes and mind
Graphically the game is beautiful. The fur textures cannot be faulted and the backgrounds are varied and detailed. Combined with relaxing sound effects, you really feel whisked away from the hectic world. As you gain new map pieces you unlock new areas of the game to enjoy. Although the urge is always there to jump straight to a new area, if you want to be uninterrupted for some play time and exploration you’re best of staying put, as the competition milestones can be a pain if you’re going for an achievement or just want to relax for a while! Even if you don’t want to jump around for long periods of time there’s a certain therapeutic quality to petting your cub.
The multiplayer options in Kinectimals enable you to play multiplayer locally. Whether you want to compete against your friends, look at their shop items, or you’re just bored of sitting on the couch, you can jump up and straight in to join the fun. With a wealth of different tricks, toys and competitions this allows you to compare your cats in ways you never expected (my cub may play dead all the time, and refuse to go to sleep but he does know ALL the tricks in the game).
Kinectimals has that rare quality some of us pine for in games – it’s just good fun. Every time I put it in I play for an hour plus, only stopping when my aching arms and legs demand it! It is adorably cute, but it’s also the best mini-game collection I’ve seen in a while and there’s enough skill needed to ensure a degree of longevity in the game. Kinectimals is great fun for parties and holds interest in solo play too. You can’t really go wrong. For most kids it’s a no brainer, this game will provide hours of fun. For most adults, if you’re still in touch with your inner child you should give it a go. If you haven’t fallen in love with the cubs already you may feel different after an hour of bonding time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must practice my flying disc skills…