Kinectimals Review

by on November 29, 2010

Game: Kinectimals

Developer: Frontier Developments

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Available on: Xbox 360 (Kinect required)

Microsoft aren’t burying the lead with the launch lineup for Kinect, it’s obvious which demographic they are appealing to at the moment, with mini-game collections and fitness games ruling the roost.  Kinectimals hopes to hit the spot for all the younger people out there, clearly trying to squeeze into the same space that EyePet resides in. Is Kinectimals fun for all the family or is it a title best avoided? Read on to find out!

It’s safe to say that in the history of videogames, you’ve never seen anything as cutesy or as sickly sweet as Kinectimals. The equivalent of pouring sugar directly into your eyes whilst watching My Little Pony and having pixies dancing through the night sky in your living room. YOU WILL VOMIT.

Unless of course, you are a parent with children whereby you’ll be able to put Kinectimals on, go in the other room and start headshotting fools over LIVE whilst the kids are happy spending time with their tiger. Well, it’s a kitten in tiger clothes actually, but let’s not get into the minor details.

This all sounds negative, but in fact it’s a testament to the game’s design. Frontier Development are no fools and they knew exactly who they were aiming Kinectimals at, and frankly, they nailed it! Speaking personally, I was able to start the game and my 5 year old played for 90 minutes with absolutely no interaction on my part. From my point of view the game was hand-holding to an insane degree, but to my son’s point of view, he was having fun with “Charlie” (don’t ask) and enjoying being taught how to play with everything available to him in Kinectimals.

After the initial setup, where you choose your cub (and if you have the limited edition you can scan in your “code” to get your limited edition cub and toys), the game starts teaching you the very basics. You’ll name your cub, you’ll teach him some basic tricks such as jumping, playing dead (which is actually quite funny to see) and spinning around. The irritating wierd flying creature, a sort of fairy-cum-bumblebee (actually, I don’t know what the hell it’s even supposed to be, but it’s ginger, it flies and has a cutesy voice that just will not quit!) is your guide around the island and you’d better grow to love him, because he’s not going away any time soon.

He'll never be a ballerina, his posture is all wrong!

The story (as explained by the flying ginger thing) is basically that the island is populated by cute animals (bunnies!!) and the guy who used to look after everything has left, 150 years ago. Quite why the cubs have remained cubs for 150 years is something that is never explained, nor why Lemurs are running the islands retail outlets. Again, I’m not sure this game is aimed at me, anyone who isn’t insane or a child.

As you teach your cub tricks, play with it and complete quests that you are given you will unlock more of the island to play in. Your cub will occasionally bring you toys it finds off-screen somewhere and you can choose to play with it or ignore it. The more sadistic of you out there may find it fun to ram your remote controlled car into the cub over and over or even to throw a plastic pig at the cubs face, but it’s far more rewarding to do what the game asks you to and thus you’ll level up and get to see more of the fantastically well rendered world.

Playing football with the cub is great fun too, though I felt like the cub was a little too skilled in that department, hence me ending up throwing a plastic pig in it’s face. Joking aside, whatever you choose to do within Kinectimals, you’ll find that it is executed with wonderful panache.

Aside from the main gameplay draw, there are other areas to explore such as your house. Inside your house you can explore your trophies, but also decorate with your own designs and you can also buy things for your house from the aforementioned Meerkats. You aren’t tied to the inital cub either, at times during the game another cub will appear and you will be asked if you want to play with it for a while.

Comparisons will be drawn to EyePet, especially now it has Playstation Move support, but in my experience, Kinectimals is far better for children and just works a lot better in almost every respect. This game showcases everything Kinect does that we’ve seen so far, but exceptionally well. When you enounter the first mini-game early on you may well audibly sigh, but they are short and simple enough that you probably (though I can’t promise) won’t find yourself saying “More mini-games??” and again, the game appears to be aimed at the younger demographic as the throwing mechanic seems to have some strange sort of aim assist on it.

If only there were real pets to stroke...oh wait...

It’s a bizarre world we live in, my aforementioned 5 year old was stroking his on-screen tiger as our real cat walked in the room. A peculiar moment occured as our real cat looked at the screen, then at the child playing the game and I could swear in that moment I could hear our cat thinking “You have to be kidding me?”, but thankfully the boy stroked the cat…then asked him to move! As I said, it’s a bizarre world we live in!

Kinectimals absolutely achieves everything it sets out to do. It is cute, charming, fun and will make you chuckle. Seeing two cats piggybacking on a remote control car is daft, but the visuals are so well executed, it’ll make you laugh.

So here we have a dichotomy, I liked this game but I’m not sure I was supposed to. I had more fun watching my children playing it than actually playing it myself, but that’s not a negative thing by any means.

We’ve had a lot of fun here but the fact remains, Kinectimals is actually a really good game. It’s very well designed and there is fun waiting for you at almost every corner. Whether it is for you or not, that’s for you to decide, but if you’ve got children, they’ll love it. Plus, if it gives you five minutes (endurance run!) to take your partner upstairs, then it must be a roaring (did you really think there’d be no puns in this review?!) success. Meow!

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