Of all the Kinect launch titles Kinectimals is probably the most unique in terms of interaction with the new device. Using body movements and voice commands this is a game to draw you in and enter the cute world of furry animals from the big cat family. Rather than present roaring tigers, ferocious lions and super fast cheetahs, the game opts to let you adopt the more playful and less intimidating cubs from one of the big cat species. The idea is simple, explore the island, play some mini games and generally have a whole lot of fun interacting with your new found friends. With a game that’s squarely aimed at the younger generation, does it offer enough activities to keep wandering minds entertained or is it too much a showcase for the new technology with little substance behind it? In other words, does it succeed in what it sets out to do?
Kinectimals starts off with a rather long introduction sequence which frankly is probably a bit too much for younger kids, but it’s a necessity as an explanation of the many facets on offer. To begin, You choose your pet, take a photo of yourself or a picture which you can hold up to the camera and the game scans to use as an icon for your save file. Once done after a bit of virtual petting the fun and games begin. Your jovial helper Bumble guides you though the basics which involves talking to your pet, teaching it new moves by performing actions and playing with it using various toy props like a tennis ball to begin with. It’s all simple stuff but has some nuances that were shown in Project Milo. You can easily sum up the game as one big exercise in showcasing interactive mini-games using Kinect, which effectively is what you have here. However, the execution has been expertly crafted to capture the player’s imagination with the likeable virtual fur balls to take you through the motions as part of an underlying story. There’s no penalties, and you’re free to take things at your own pace.
There’s definitely a bond which forms between you and your pet, and what’s really neat is if you’re a more introverted participant, your pet and Bumble will be forthcoming in guiding you forwards, whereas if you’re a little more pro-active then you can lead the way. You have an overall goal of opening up parts of the island, gaining money to spend on various items in the shop, and discovering the secrets contained within the island. The pacing is steady but slow, offering similar progression you can find in an adventure game in terms of its structure.
The mini games are fun and designed to get you interacting with the game world using Kinect. They require a certain level of activity and can range from playing fetch with your pet to smashing objects with remote controlled cars. It’s all very sedate and easy going which should keep the young ones well enthralled for hours. You can dip in and out of the various components of the game via a menu and swipe of hand, meaning should you get bored on one thing, you can easily move onto the next without breaking a sweat. The menu navigation is easy, but what is off putting are the sheer number of elements which need explanation. It seems for the first hour or so that you’re constantly being told about new things which might prove to be a little daunting for younger players or those with less patience. Once you are in game then there’s still lots to fathom, but due to the pacing means you can tackle them a little at a time. There are some 30 mini games and a whole host of pet tricks you can master, so always learning. In fact remembering them all might prove too much for some, including adults.
Kinectimals offers a rich and vibrant world full of colour and cuteness to house your well animated feline friends. It’s obvious the developers have paid close attention to animals like dogs, to capture the playful element of owner and pet. In fact the similarities between the cubs and dogs are quite remarkable. Each of the cubs has their own look and when up close to the camera you can see some finer details in the fur which creates very realistic yet overly animated looking characters. If there’s any complaint to be made, a few more animal variations could have been used, but this is perhaps being picky.
Kinect seems to work well for the most part when playing mini games such as throwing balls, or volleying with beach balls, but there are imperfections when teaching your pet new tricks. Kinect seems have some problems registering your movements, meaning you’re likely to have to perform them one or two times to get them right. If this encompasses star jumps, be prepared to get sweaty.
From the cat like purrs of the cubs, to gentle music which flows throughout the game, the audio is as relaxing as expected. Bumble is cheekily exciting to listen to and does a good job of being your informant throughout. Thankfully there’s absolutely nothing in the game which is jarring or obtuse, making playing simply a joyful experience. You’re more likely to hear the laughter, and sounds of wonder from those playing which is always a good that something is doing its job.
Kinectimals offers plenty of things to do although, eventually you’ll reach a point where tasks and games become a bit ‘samey’. There’s also an element of novelty wearing thin. What’s good is being able to play the mini-games competitively as another player joins the fray (you take turns). There is certainly much room for improvement with the game especially where multiplayer is concerned. Whereas other Kinect games nail the multiplayer component, kinectimals really purports to a single player experience. This means for those watching, it can be a little tiresome, especially if you’re itching to have a go yourself. There should have been some sort of two player mode at least which would have greatly improved the shared experience.
Having tested the game on the target audience, it’s clear that Kinectimals is one of kind at the moment, and is something endearing, charming, memorable, and interesting to play. The interface whilst simple, could have been a little faster to move around, but this ethos sums up the nature of the game. It’s a slow paced single player game, which could have benefited from a few more multiplayer options for those sitting on the sidelines.
As it stands, if you’ve got kids, aged 8 upwards (especially girls), you’ll find them fully enjoying what’s on offer, although with so much to take in, can get a little overly complicated. Luckily with no penalties, those playing can simply dip in and reap the rewards at their own pace which is very good. Kinectimals is definitely a game recommended just to show off how clever Kinect can be with a little imagination. For older gamers and adults, there’s certainly enough charm to win you over, but perhaps not enough substance to keep you glued to the TV for long periods or after the initial novelty wears off.