Tag Archives: Kinect

Dance Central 3 Review

Dance Central 3 (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 8
Genre: Dance
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Harmonix
Release Date: October 16th, 2012

Parent Talk: While the game is rated T for teen because of lyrics and mild suggestive themes, I’d say the only reason young players can’t tackle this one is because some of the dance routines can be rather complex. Stringing together move after move might be a little more than the little ones can comprehend, that is unless you’ve got the next Michael Jackson at home.

Plays Like: Have you played either of the previous two Dance Central games? If so, you know exactly what to expect here. The core gameplay remains the same, except new upgrades and tons of new songs have been added to make this a worthy installment. Basically you follow on-screen dance moves and let loose.

Review Basis: Played for hours, and tried all the different modes.

I’m a huge fan of this series. I’ve got the moves like Jagger, and love to shake my rear-end whenever I get the chance. This was a no-brainer pick-up for me, and if you’ve been following the series I think you’ll feel exactly like I do. It rules!

The Great:

Of all the new features, the one I love the most is Party Time. This mode basically shuffles songs and gameplay modes on the fly. The best part of all though comes from a new two-player freestyle mode where you basically try to dance to the beat of some random song. The game looks at both players and determines who is more accurately dancing to the beat and awards a better score. The other player can then try to steal your moves or up the ante in other ways.

The Good:

+ Easy mode acts as a perfect tutorial so even if you move like a brick, there’s fun to be had. I found the hard mode to be especially complex this year, which is wonderful as it means you’ll be coming back for more.

+ Same wonderful gameplay system returns. Cards appear on the right side showing you the next move to perform. You simply follow along, OK maybe it’s not that simple. Sometimes it’s extremely complicated learning how to string different moves together so they flow properly.

+ Having trouble performing a step, a new feature in rehearsal mode shows your body alongside the in-game character, which is a superb way of showing where you went wrong.

+ Dance crazes are amazing. Harmonix turned the clock back and took several dance crazes from the 70s to today, making the game even more appealing than ever before. You’ll be dancing the Macarena with the best of ’em before you know it.

+ Pay 400 MS points to download the songs from Dance Central or Dance Central 2 (it’s 400 points per disc) to DC 3. What if you already paid, well you don’t need to pay again ;) That’s an excellent deal in my book. Yes, I changed my tone from last year, too bad.

+ The best soundtrack yet. I love the hits included from the previous decades, even more than I like the new songs. I mean come on, Ice Ice Baby is included. How can you not love this game?

+ Story and Perform modes are both back and better than ever. Looking for a silly storyline to follow, or just want to jump in and dance, the option is yours.

The Lowdown:

I honestly have nothing bad to say about this game. It’s the absolute best at what it does. It’s the quintessential party game, and one everyone should break out during the holiday season. If you own the other two parts, even better because you can add more songs to the mix. This is the reason the Kinect exists, and this is the reason why you should race out and pick one up if you don’t already own one.

Final Score: 9/10

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth Review

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth (Available on Kinect for Xbox 360, and Wii U)
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1 to 4
Genre: Fighting
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Release Date: October 30th, 2012

Parent Talk: While the ESRB rates Battle for Earth T for teen because of fantasy violence, and mild suggestive themes, I would easily allow children to play this one. It’s a motion game based on the Marvel comics event Secret Invasion. You know Secret Invasion right? No, OK here’s the whole story in a nutshell. The Skrulls, those evil green triple-chinned alines have taken over the identities of multiple Marvel characters. When Electra is killed, it is revealed that she is a Skrull which starts this huge Marvel event where “who can you trust” is the main slogan, and indeed virtually every other character is revealed to be an alien. It caused huge shock waves across the Marvel universe that are still being felt today. You now have the chance to play a fighting game within this wacky setting.

Plays Like: This is a fighting game that plays very similarly to PowerUp Heroes, another Ubisoft Kinect game. Players move their arms and legs as if they were really fighting, although they have the twist of being able to mimic their comic-book characters’ special moves. Extend your arm to replicate a blast shot as Iron Man, for example.

Review Basis: Played through the entire game, and had a surprising amount of fun while doing so.

Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth isn’t going to win any awards for its unique gameplay, but that doesn’t mean what’s offered here isn’t fun. It is fun, in fact it made me feel like a child again. While it gets old extremely quickly, which is an inherent problem with most Kinect games, I found myself coming back for more simply because I’m such a huge Marvel nerd. If you’re looking for a great party game, or a game your children will love, this is the perfect stocking stuffer for this holiday season.

The Great:

Being able to play as 20 different Marvel characters, using your own body as the controller is hilarious, and lots of fun. All those classic moves your favorite characters pull off are yours try and perform yourself. Better still, you can yell different commands while doing these moves to grant extra damage buffs. So for example if you’re playing as Hulk and you do a hand clap, you can scream “Hulk Smash” and will be granted extra damage. What’s not to love about that?

The Good:

+ The body tracking works perfectly. I only had issues if I got overly excited, or moved too close to the camera. I tend to do that when I’m acting like a five year-old.

+ Versus and co-op modes will keep you coming back for more, and this might actually become a staple at parties, which I really didn’t expect. There’s just something cool about beating on your friends as your favorite Marvel heroes.

+ Presentation is top notch, from the art design to the great soundtrack, Ubisoft Quebec did a really superb job. I even love the box art ;)

The So-So:

+/- Ubisoft had a lot to work with in terms of background stories. There were literally hundreds of comics released during this event, and yet I found the story to be mashed together just so certain characters could fight others, even if it didn’t happen in the books. It’s as if this was done solely to extend the game’s already short campaign.

The Bad:

– While the controls work great, there are only so many moves you can perform before every character starts to play exactly like the last, save for a special move or two. Ultimately this is the type of game best played in short bursts rather than extended periods.

The Ugly:

Jessica Drew a Skrull, that’s just wrong.

The Lowdown:

I’m a huge comic-book fan, everyone knows that, and I’m also a huge Marvel fan, so perhaps that’s why I enjoyed Battle for Earth as much as I did. That said, I’m also a huge videogame fan with years experience reviewing games, and when these two sides of me clash, I know I need to find some middle ground. My final take is this, if you enjoy these characters and this universe, and can overlook some rather simplistic and repetitive gameplay, Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth might be your next mild obsession.

Final Score: 7/10

Nat Geo: America the Wild Review

Nat Geo: America the Wild (Available only on Kinect for Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Television Programming
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Relentless Software
Release Date: September 18th, 2012

I know you all love it when we mix up the review format, but for a “game” like this I’ve got not choice. You see, Nat Geo: America the Wild isn’t a videogame, sure it might have some mini-games and interactive features, but the truth is this is a two-disc compilation of the interactive on-demand programming available via the Nat Geo app on Xbox Live. This package include a one year season pass that grants viewers more access to episodes online than the eight featured on the discs. If these episodes tickle your fancy there are other series available including Sharks, World’s Weirdest, etc. If you’d like to demo the app, you can download it for free from the Xbox Live Marketplace and try a complimentary episode at no additional charge. Individual episodes can be purchased for 400 MS points, and the season pass can be yours for 2,400 MS points.

Let’s get back to the package at hand though. The compilation includes four episodes on each disc. They’re hosted by Casey Anderson and teach you all about the animal the episodes are based on. You will learn about the black bear, wolverine, mountain lion, etc. Each episode lasts about thirty minutes and encourages viewers to join in by completing a variety of tasks from taking pictures to following sidetracks. To do this, while watching the episodes you will see a notification appear on the screen telling you what to do. Either yell “snap” to take a picture or “tracks” to veer off into a sidetrack for further information on the animal you’re currently learning about.

Each episode also includes different mini-games, which superimpose the animal’s habitat in your living room. Your face and hands get covered to look like said animal, and you go around bashing things a la Fruit Ninja. Essentially, think of objects flying around the screen, and you need to smash them with your fury mitts. Players are given a medal based on their performance, and young ones will likely have to play the episodes multiple times in order to get a gold medal in each game.

That’s all she wrote for this compilation. It’s an interesting package, highlighting what is a really unique way to get children to learn more about the animal world. While the app is a digital-only service, it’s nice to see Microsoft package some real value into this compilation. Coming in at only $29.99 for eight episodes is a really good deal and will likely convince more people to jump on-board. If you have children at home, I highly recommend giving this one a buy, it’s well worth it just for the season pass alone.

Time to Scream At Skyrim As Bethesda Announces Kinect Support For Elder Scrolls V

Bethesda sent over a press release detailing a new free patch for Skyrim that will hit sometime later this month and update the game to allow for over 200 voice commands.

Adding a new dimension to Skyrim’s gameplay, the Kinect for Xbox 360 integration offers Voice Commands throughout the game including Dragon Shouts, Hotkey Equipping, Follower Commands, and all Menus (Items, Magic, Map, Barter, Container, Favorites, and Skills). With Voice Commands, quickly create and load saves during gameplay and access menus and inventories. Skyrim’s Kinect for Xbox 360 Support also adds new functionality including special map functions, additional hotkey options, and the ability to sort inventory items by name, weight, and value.

Those of you out there who adore Skyrim, and have a Kinect sensor will likely find this a pretty cool addition.  Question is, will you actually go back and replay the lengthy campaign to try these commands out?

Gears of War: Exile Canned

When an upcoming release gets cut down, gamers generally react in one of two ways: with an internet-shattering cry of disappointment (think: Earthbound 64) or, less often, with a unanimous sigh of relief (think: Starcraft Ghost). The question is, which one of these reactions will greet the demise of the planned Gears of War game for Kinect? The little-known game will probably just go out with a murmur.

 

Gears of War: Exile was said to be an on-rails shooter, and while it’s hard to say what the actual game would have looked like,  Microsoft and Epic apparently didn’t think it was up to scratch. Cliff Bleszinski gave closure to the project’s status at PAX East, saying that it was canceled and nothing more would be said of it.

 

While it would have been great to see some content on Kinect geared towards hardcore gamers, the stars simply didn’t line up for this one.

 

Source: Gamespot

Kinect Star Wars Review

Kinect Star Wars (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1-2
Genre: Action
Publisher: Microsoft/LucasArts
Developer: Terminal Reality
Release Date: April 3, 2012

Parent Talk: The ESRB rates Kinect Star Wars T for teen because it features violence, mild suggestive themes and mild language, though the game was clearly designed for children.

Plays Like: Any Kinect adventure game, but with lightsabers.

Review Basis: Completed the campaign and messed with the mini-games.

I actually attended the L.A. event where Kinect was unveiled to the world. It was a long wait until Microsoft demonstrated their new hardware with a handful of games. About the only one the generated mild excitement was Kinect Star Wars. Every Star Wars fan has dreamed of wielding a lightsaber and using those trusty force powers. Kinect seemed to be the perfect match for the popular franchise. Is it?

The Great:

The license. The reason to buy this is the Star Wars name, and thankfully it’s used well. Most of the classic characters appear in one form or another. R2-D2 and C3P0 introduce you to the game from the Jedi Archives. How cool is that?  The campaign starts with the classic intro and music, which is as awesome as ever. It’s the universe you know and love, now controllable without a controller. ‘The controller, you are’ says the back of the box, perhaps inspired by a character in this very game.

The Good:

+ The Jedi master who is in charge of the Padawans. She reminded me of why I strangely loved The Phantom Menace as a very young child, because it portrayed us how Jedis could dominate in a fight. That’s what she does.

+ Co-op.  Kids will really enjoy it with their siblings or friends.

+ The pod-racing mini-game. I don’t think it’s better than the N64’s Episode 1 Racer, but it certainly entertains.

+ The environments. What you see isn’t breath-taking, but I especially enjoyed scenes like where you control a gunner trying to eliminate multiple hostiles. It puts you in the mood.

+ The dancing portions. They rip off Dance Central, and that makes them a blast to play! However…

The Bad:

– Dancing is morally wrong. It’s odd to be forced to dance as a slave (you must entertain Java the Hutt), but it becomes awkward and even degrading when you see Leia take her chains off to show how it’s done. This isn’t the right message for kids. I could be reading too much into it, but I expect this mode to take some press heat in the future.

– Wonky controls. They sometimes work like a charm, but most of the time not. On occasion, the game doesn’t react to your gestures at all. You might try to defend an incoming attack, only to be wiggling your arm like crazy and nothing happens onscreen. Thankfully there’s no penalty for death as you simply come right back up.

– Duels. They’re boring; you defend for a few turns, then attack. Rinse and repeat.

– Repetitive campaign. You fight wave after wave of enemies, only to be interrupted by a five-second clip, then fight another wave. The enemy designs lack variety too.

– Force powers underused. The most exciting potential for Kinect was mimicking the Force powers. However, you can never use them at will, or creatively. The game pre-determines the scenarios where you use them. Even worse; most enemies are immune to Force attacks! That was in the movies, right?

The Lowdown:

Kids will undoubtedly have fun with this one, but Kinect Star Wars is a huge letdown for the rest of us. Only the most hardcore fans need apply. There’s a lot of content on the disc, but most of it won’t entertain the older crowd. Approach with caution.

Final Score: 5.5/10

Kinect Sports: Season Two Review

Kinect Sports: Season Two (Available exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1-4
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Rare & BigPark
Release Date: October 25, 2011

Parent Talk: Given the cute nature of the Kinect Sports franchise, your youngest children shouldn’t have any problems with this accessible and fun-natured game.

Plays Like: The original Kinect Sports and somewhat like Wii Sports and Sports Champions.

Review Basis: At a recent party I played through all the sports and tried a couple online modes.

Kinect Sports returns for another season, and now players can compete in six all-new sport events.  Some are better suited to Kinect than others, but overall Season Two is fun for the whole family.

The Great:

Of the six games included, skiing is the most responsive, accurate and fun.  Shift your body left and right to avoid flags and other obstacles, crunching to gain speed, etc.  It feels natural and works well.  If you’re going to show off this game, start with skiing.

The Good:

+ Tennis, golf and baseball work very well.  These play exactly as you would imagine.  Baseball even allows you to play on both sides of the ball, batting and pitching.

+ New voice controls.  You can say “Ready, hike!”  It’s a start and will naturally evolve as the series continues.

+ Online and offline multiplayer is just as fun.  The best way to experience Kinect Sports is with a buddy, simple as that.

+ Challenge mode.  If no friends are online, or around in person, the challenge mode is an excellent tide-me-over.  It works for everything but football, and allows you to participate in specialized games and send your scores to friends. They can try to best you once online. It’s ultra convenient.

+ Simple and efficient menu.  If you’re used to Kinect games, you know how easy it is to navigate from one area to the next.

The So-So:

+/- Space is still the main obstacle for some.  Some events require you to shift from left to right of the Kinect sensor. With a lack of space, your swings (especially for golf), won’t register properly.  The same goes for football and skiing.

The Bad:

– Football.  You only play offense, so half the game you’re inactive and have no way to prevent opponent touchdowns. Throwing the ball is also problematic, as you can’t move, so it’s easy to get sacked. When running, you have no way to avoid the opposition, so you only gain a few yards no matter how fast you book it.

– Darts is equally frustrating.  No matter where I stood, Kinect couldn’t follow my hand.  Anybody knows that accuracy is the key of the game. I tried tweaking the Kinect calibration, but all for naught.  My space is limited though, so perhaps the fault is mine.

 

The Ugly:

Witnessing my avatar attempting to perform a kick-off when the Kinect camera decides I’m standing too close.  Suddenly legs appear through my avatar’s head, my arms snap back 90 degrees the wrong way.  It isn’t pretty.

The Lowdown:

While improvements are clearly evident, control issues prevent Season Two from reaching the playoffs.  Nonetheless, if you want a game to play with your kids, this is a great option.

Average Score Scale: 7.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 7.0/10 (Neutral)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Excellent for kids that own a Kinect; Skiing rules.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: Wonky controls and a large space requirement to play some of the games.

Dance Central 2 Review

Dance Central 2 (Available Exclusively on Xbox 360)
ESRB Rating: T
Players: 1=2
Genre: Dance
Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Harmonix
Release Date: October 25, 2011

Parent Talk: Dance Central is rated T for teen due to mild lyrics and some suggestive dance moves.  So long as you select the songs your children play, they too could have some fun playingthis excellent game.  Heck, the whole house could dance up a storm before you know it.

Plays Like: The original Dance Central.  There’s nothing on the market that matches this. DC2 is a wonderful place to start if DC passed you up.

Review Basis: Tried a bunch of modes with friends at a party, the best way to experience Dance Central.

If you enjoyed Dance Central, then it’s likely you already own this sequel.  It’s better thanks to the inclusion of simultaneous two-player dances, which just blast the fun factor to the moon.  While not perfect, you must break out DC2 at your next party.  You won’t regret it.

The Great:

The two-player dancing.  You must be careful when dancing together so you don’t knock each other over, but this was the number one feature missing in the previous game.  It’s so much fun to dance off against someone else, and at parties your face will hurt from all the inevitable laughing.

The Good:

+ Accessible.  Do you have two left feet?  Are you like our Steven and have the moves that move ‘em?  Are you a mad chick magnet that just can’t leave the dance floor?  Whoever you are, Dance Central 2 has you covered.  From the detailed tutorials to the highly technical choreography, there’s something challenging and fun here for all.   When you transition from easy to medium, then hard, the experience is extremely rewarding.

+ Same great system.  Little dance cards appear on the screen and you mimic them when told to in tune with the music. It’s not long before you learn which moves typically follow each other to chain higher scores.

+ Kinect.  In the past a controller was required, and games would measure only certain elements of your dancing, but Kinect demands you perform the routines well in order to achieve those ultra insane scores.  The technology involved is as impressive as ever.

+ The power of voice.  The all-new menus are easier to navigate thanks to voice control.  Tell Kinect what song you want to dance through, and you’re set.

+ Crew Challenge: a story mode wrapped around the street dance scene.  While the narrative is silly, the option to play with a friend makes the experience worth it. The same goes for the other modes offered.  I can’t stress how awesome two-player simultaneous dance-offs is.

+ It’s time to work out.  There’s a new fitness playlist designed to help you stay in shape.  You can customize the program with brief ten-minute workouts or difficult power workouts of 50 minutes.  Whatever you decide, the playlists do well to bring out the sweat.

+ Leaderboards show how crappy you are.  Think you’re the next MIchael Jackson? Prove it. Apparently there are people that can really move.  You can also upload pictures shot from your dances to Twitter and Facebook if you’re seeking global embarrassment.

The So-So:

+ /- 40 songs included on the disc; tons more available online.  You can also import all of Dance Central’s tracks, but it’ll cost you 400 Microsoft points. That’s kind of low for Microsoft, for shame!

The Bad:

– Where’s the online gameplay competition?!  What if I’m attending another party, break out DC2, and want to take on a few friends online that I know are also partying?  Halloween is tonight; imagine how much fun this could have been?!

The Ugly:

Have you ever seen Jarrod let loose?  Yeah, didn’t think so. (Hint: you won’t want to!)

The Lowdown:

Harmonix has proven they know how to make the best Kinect games.  Dance Central 2 is the perfect evolution of the dance genre, but it is such a shame online multiplayer wasn’t added.  Other Kinect software supports it, so why not this?  For now, grab a few local friends and enjoy the party of the decade with Dance Central 2.

Average Score Scale: 8.0 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 8.5/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: Super fun to play at parties with friends.  You won’t find a better Kinect game.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: Charging to import songs from the previous game?  Really?!?!

 

E3 2011 – Microsoft Press Conference [Semi] Live Blog

E3 2011 – New Fable, Dance Central & Kinect Sports

This is just a rumor for right now, but it’s looking more and more likely that a new Dance Central and Kinect Sports will be announced during Microsoft’s press conference.  These titles have domains that have been registered by Microsoft.  As for Fable: The Journey, that sounds like a perfect spinoff title to me.  I don’t know any of us have to imagine very hard to see Peter Molyneux get onstage tomorrow to announce a Kinect-specific Fable adventure.

While these games are purely speculative right now, I’m willing to bet that come tomorrow afternoon I’ll be posting screenshots of these three games.

E3 2011 – Microsoft Releases Updated Sales Numbers

Microsoft has decided to release some new numbers ahead of their press conference Monday morning.  They’ve also released their new mission statement which is:

All of the entertainment you want. With the people you care about – made easy.

We know you’re interested in those numbers so let’s jump right to it.  To date Microsoft has sold 55 million Xbox 360s across 38 countries.  Notice the bolded sold not shipped.  There are 35 million active Xbox Live users, averaging 60 hours a month of online play time.  Without giving specifics, Microsoft said compared to last years users are streaming three times more video content.  Finally they released updated Kinect numbers.  Currently Microsoft has sold over 10 million Kinect cameras and the same amount of games.  They had this to say about the future of the platform.

Xbox 360 maintains its lead in the U.S. as the top selling console in 2011, and ten of the past eleven months. In the first four months of 2011, Xbox 360 has seen a 29 percent year over year increase in sales, which is more than triple the growth of PlayStation 3 and the largest growth of any console on the market.

We’ll have a live running commentary on their press conference this Monday so be sure to check it out.  I’m certain there will be a few shocking moments ;)

Big News – Microsoft Buys Skype For $8.5 Billion

What would you do with $8.5 billion burning a hole in your pocket?  That’s right, you’d buy Skype!  You know Skype, yes that’s right, that Skype.  The app that let’s you talk to people all over the world.  It seems like only yesterday when Skype launched, but today there are so many people that use this application on their home computers and mobile devices that it boggles the mind.  They also use it on their Xbox 360s and Kinect sensors.  Hey, wait a sec.  After today’s announcement they’ll be able to do just that.  It would appear Microsoft has very big plans for their new purchase.  Here’s what the company announced earlier this morning.

Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities.

For all those out there that use Skype on devices such as the PSP, Microsoft will keep those applications running…at least for now. It’s kind of funny how there’s now an app on the PSP that Microsoft will be in control of. What a crazy and wonderful world we live in, isn’t it?

What do you all think of this news?

10 Million People Kinect-ed

That’s a pretty lame title, isn’t it?  I guess I’m a bit tired, so you’ll have to excuse me for that one.  Microsoft wanted us to let you know that 10 million Kinects have been sold since the title debuted last November 4th.  The Guinness World Records 2011 Gamer’s Edition has listed Kinect as “fastest-selling consumer electronics device.”  It beat out the iPhone and iPad.  Pretty impressive stuff actually.  So let’s join Microsoft in celebrating with this awesome picture I found via Google, our very best friend.

Over 60 million games have also been sold, which means that this bad boy has been rather successful.  It’s kind of funny because I remember it like yesterday when Steven and I were checking out the system for the very first time.  We thought we were going to look like idiots and we sure did.  We also had a complete blast.  Thanks to the fond memory, I’m now going to display another wonderful picture.

What does a teddy bear in pajamas have to do with anything? It has nothing to do with anything, but teddy bears are wicked, and everyone loves pajamas am I right?  You know it’s true!

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.