It doesn’t take sleuthlike perception to realize that Kinectimals’ target audience isn’t dissimilar to that of, say, Hannah Montana (no, not paedophiles!). That said, the game’s message boards are beginning to sound like a Kinectimaloholics Anonymous meeting for 20-and 30-something-year-old addicts, with cries of “I’m a 35-year-old male and I freakin’ love Kinectimals!” and “I bought this game for my 8-year-old daughter but she ain’t gettin’ a look in!” emerging.
Following such testimony, and given that I’m such an open-minded, young-at-heart individual, I decided to rent it… erm, for my girlfriend. The trouble is, without substance and innovation a game like Kinectimals wouldn’t be acceptable by modern standards, and this was my initial fear; after all, the tired old feed-wash-play formula of pet sims of old would wear thin very quickly indeed. So, is the game a groundbreaking taster of the possibilities of Kinect, or is it nothing more than an ostentatious Tamagotchi? Read on to find out.
With the help of your island guide – an incessantly prattling pixie called Bumbles – you begin your journey by choosing, and naming (with your voice), one of a selection of predatory feline cubs to “adopt”. From here, the basic premise is to explore the diverse island of Lemuria in search of Captain Able Blackwood’s long-lost treasure in a tenuous and simple story, but one which allows the game to make use of a quirky pirate theme.
Kinectimals is graphically superb and the game’s environments look great, but it’s in the character modelling of your feline companions where the visuals really come to life; as well as oozing purrsonality, the mogs look incredibly vivid, with fur and animation quality the likes of which you wouldn’t normally see outside a big budget Pixar movie.
The sprawling paradise island is opened up gradually as you earn money and experience points by interacting with your pet and taking part in challenges and mini-games, the diversity of which allows Kinect to flex some of its technological muscle. To an extent, Kinectimals somewhat dilutes the gap between the physical and the digital, effectively allowing you to reach into the game’s world and interact with it. Move left and right and the view will shift accordingly, seemingly transforming your television into an open window, through which you can interact with your cub with an impressive assortment of items, which can be found or bought.
Each item – balls, discs, balloons, skipping ropes, RC cars, etc. – initiates a mini-game and allows you to interact with your pet, and indeed Kinect, in a different way. In fact, I can’t help but feel the game would have been a much more effective showcase title to bundle with Kinect as it better demonstrates a wide variety of the sensor’s capabilities and is ultimately more polished, diverse and has less obvious delay issues than Kinect Adventures. Plus Kinectimals doesn’t need a space larger than you could swing a… erm, cat in.
Training your pet is pretty intuitive and surprisingly one of the most fun aspects of the title: dozens of unlockable tricks can be learnt by spoken commands or performing certain actions, such as playing dead, and there’s something admittedly endearing about watching your cub try to mimic your performance, plus the facial expressions are priceless.
On the other hand, other than fine-tuning these tricks and decorating your pet in collars and trinkets, there’s a disappointing lack of progression in terms of the animal’s development; however, with all of the items to buy, tricks to unlock, treasures to find and gold medals to earn, Kinectimals is nonetheless compelling and should provide around 20 hours of gameplay, even for the more experienced gamer.
At times the game is so cute you could very well throw up in your mouth, but you’d have to be pretty stone-hearted not to be enamored by the cubs’ antics. Mundane kitty care – feeding, cleaning and petting – plays a refreshingly small part in the game, and it is not these menial tasks that compel you to continue, but the element of discovery, the vast array of collectibles and goals to achieve.
Although the challenges are somewhat varied, most adults will tire of the repetitive formula of the game’s structure, whilst kids will lap it up and still come back for seconds. Plus their beloved companion won’t die so you’ll never have to make that frantic dash to the pet store to purchase a similar-looking feline or make that “Kitty Heaven is a whimsical place” speech. So, if you fancy a break from frantic bullet dodging and hardcore action, Lemuria could very well be the perfect getaway for you to spend some quality time with your inner child.
Seriously some of the best visuals seen on the 360; the cats are rendered in incredible detail.
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The purrfect showcase of Kinect's capabilities, the game provides some novel interaction, but sadly the repetitive format tires slightly.
An orchestral score adds polish to the title, but Bumble's voice makes you want to swat him before long.
20 hours of varied gameplay will keep adults interested enough, but younger gamers could visit the island for years.
Kinectimals is a compelling game for the young and young-at-heart, offering dynamic and impressive levels of interaction. Plus it won't poo in your slippers or die.