Borrowing a page from PlayStation Move’s EyePet, Microsoft has launched the achingly adorable Kinectimals alongside the new motion-sensing peripheral. To avoid suffocating in this entry’s all-consuming cuteness during extended play sessions, we had to continually remind ourselves to play it from a parent’s perspective. You see, the game’s as sweet as that bit of un-dissolved hot chocolate at the bottom of your cocoa mug and as cute as a button sewn onto a cuddly teddy bear sitting in a giant pink beanbag chair.
So, yeah, hardcore gamers need not apply. However, if you’re a 7-year old girl, a crazy cat woman, or a mom’s-basement-dwelling 40-year old who’s “still figuring things out” by all means, jump in! Sarcasm aside, as a lover of all things cute and cuddly, we’re almost ashamed to admit how much fun we had with Kinectimals. In fact, less like a minigame collection and more like an exploration-encouraging adventure, we found Kinect’s pet sim to be its most engaging launch title.
If you’ve petted a Nintendog, bathed a Petz, or taught tricks to that creepy EyePet creature, then you already know what to expect. Like those virtual pet experiences, Kinectimals has you adopting a cuddle-worthy companion, and caring for it. You’ll also play with it, teach it tricks and - if you’re a sap like us - bond with it. Kinectimals begins with players picking from one of several lion or tiger cub breeds. Once selected, you name it and begin petting it with a pair of glowing god-like hands. In addition to purring and reacting to your touch, it’ll learn your voice when you speak its name.
Capitalizing on Kinect’s controller-free approach, the title also tosses in some fun touches, such as the ability to wipe the screen clean when your cub sneezes or breathes on it. Soon enough, you and your pet are up to the usual tricks - playing, feeding, brushing and so on. Nothing new to the genre, but definitely more fun under Kinect’s spell, as cutting out the middle-man motion controller adds noticeable depth to the animal-touching proceedings.
The standard pet sim stuff alone would be enough to get most tykes to dig their fake furry friends, but Kinectimals actually offers quite a bit more. The expected games and activities are anchored in a fantasy-themed story that unfolds on an exotic island. Early on, you’re given a treasure map, left behind by “the kindest pirate that ever lived”, Captain Able Blackwood. As you and your cub complete tasks, games, and challenges, you level up in an ever-so-light RPG way, unlocking new areas to explore on the island’s map. Additionally, each unlocked location holds its own secrets, offering a constant incentive to progress.
While varied and abundant, the individual activities are hit or miss. For one, there are way too many games that involve tossing objects at other objects. However, more engaging games, such as buzzing your cub around on a mini RC car, or running him through an obstacle course, generally make up for the weaker ones. When not caring for your cub, exploring the pretty environments, or playing games, you can use earned coins to buy goods from a Lemur-owned shop - told you the game was cute.
Kinectimals certainly isn’t for everyone, but it’s pretty spot-on for its target audience. The intuitive Kinect controls take the pet sim experience to a new immersion-amping level, the lush jungle visuals are an eye-pleasing treat, and the fun narrative and sandbox-like environments add some welcome depth to the feed-pet-brush-play genre. Oh, and did we mention how irresistibly cute the animals are?
Nov 4, 2010