Kinectimals Review

Kinectimals (Available only on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1-2
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Frontier Dev.
Release Date: November 4th, 2010

Parent Talk: Parents, be warned; you may not be ready for how cute Kinectimals is.  It can induce joyful seizures, and painful smiles that can last ten minutes at a time.  This isn’t for the heartless.

This review is about a month late.  For shame!  One of the reasons is that I’ve been so busy playing six games at once trying to acquire enough info to write several reviews at once.  I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.  Despite that somewhat lame excuse, time to describe what makes Kinectimals one of the cutest videogames ever, and one you simply must play.

The Great:

If you have any young ones at home, or anyone young at heart, Kinectimals is an instant buy.  It’s a pet simulator built on mini-games.  I think it’s overly deep, features several boring games, but the overall charm keeps you coming back.  I tested this on several friends, and they’re all hooked.  There’s something about cleaning, patting, and playing with the cutest virtual cubs that people inherently find appealing.  There are lions, tigers and more.  Just look at the screenshots, and it’s pretty clear why people can’t get enough Kinectimals.  Steven has joked about this with me before, but I really do recommend this game to anyone who loves cute and cuddly animals.  If that doesn’t convince, maybe the constant purring, cute and fluffy faces or prancing around will.  I thought Kinectimals was for anyone but me, yet I can’t wait to receive my Kinect back from Microsoft to play more.  That’s how much I miss my little tiger cub.

The Good:

+ Perfect balance.  Kinectimals is cute and charming, but there’s a fine line between cute factor and going overboard to become cartoony.  The environments are extremely life-like.  The sun crackles through the jungle as it would in real life; your cub becomes dirty and snowy while playing, but it never seems like it’s trying too hard.  For that reason, Kinectimals feels completely natural.  I believe it’s why during every new session, you can’t help but feel more impressed than before.

+ Bumble.  Bumble is the host; he walks you through everything.  He’s also slightly annoying thanks to a squeaky voice, and for one reason or another, he’s always out of his element.  He’s the sole cartoony element in the game.  It’s likely why he never fits in.  Even so, Bumble is extremely helpful.  He shows how to purchase toys from the General Store, trade one cub for another and more.  All that would be daunting without Bumble.

+ Let’s play!  You can teach your cub tricks, like jumping, playing dead, sitting, laying down, etc.  There are countless others.  Each demonstrates how to interact with the pup in unique ways.  Then there are the minigames.  Be it playing fetch, driving your cub around a small track on an RC car.  Tell me that isn’t the most adorable thing.  The more you play, the more new areas open up.  Think of it like an RPG.  The more games and tricks you do, the more your cub levels up.  New locations range from a vast jungle to a snowy mountainside.  I should also mention that anything you play with your cub feels as natural as it would in real life.  Your cub may walk in the way of the ball you’re trying to throw.  If you whip out a frisbee, he might not see where you threw it, etc.  It’s amazing how everything came together.

+ I prefer to be by myself.  You can compete with friends in challenges, but I really enjoyed spending alone time with my cub.  With friends over, we took turns patting the cub, playing with it and eventually grooming it and watching it take a nap.  We somehow found that more enticing than challenging each other to the different minigames.  I’m not sure if that’s because the mini-games aren’t exciting or if there’s just something about playing with a cute, cuddly creature.  I suppose you’ll be the one to decide.

The Bad:

– Didn’t we already play this?  Many mini-games are simple variations of each other.  You might throw a ball here, then a stick there, but at the end of the day you’re still throwing something for your cub to fetch.  This is true for most of the other activities.  More variety would have gone a long way, but I think it has more to do with limited development time than anything else.  Each new interaction added has to be mapped to the Kinect sensor, and that requires additional money and time.

The Ugly:

Occasionally the Kinect camera would have difficulty matching my one-to-one movements.  There’s noticeable lag during a few mini-games for example.  It doesn’t destroy the illusion, but it’s noticeable.  I also had problems with some of the fetching games, where I would just raise my hand and suddenly throw three or four balls.  What’s up with that?

Can this be done on another system?

The closest game to Kinectimals is EyePet, but a comparison wouldn’t be fair.  The PlayStation Eye technology doesn’t match up to Kinect’s.  In my opinion, there’s no other platform on which this level of interaction could be achieved.  It’s as if you have a cub trapped in your TV, and thanks to Kinect, you can interact with it.  The cub even learns its name so it can race towards your calling it.  Then you can grab the little guy, play a game and explore a section of the mysterious island.  EyePet offers a lot, but didn’t come together like Kinectimals did.  Perhaps this was a developer issue, but I believe it has more to do with the technology available.

The Lowdown:

Kinectimals is the cutest game I’ve ever played.  It’s addicting, and I’ll be right there with younger gamers all over when my Kinect comes back to me to continue playing.  I’m not alone in this thought either, as my significant other asks me every other day “Jarrod, when can we play with Monty again?”  Think I’m a loser?  Try it yourself and you’ll understand,  If you have Kinect, you should pick this one up.

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