Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Frontier Developments
Genre: Pet Simulation
ESRB rating: Everyone
Release date: Available now
If you’re the kind of person who’s ever wondered how much fun you could have with a baby tiger without the fear of being either scratched to death or arrested (and no, I’m not labeling you), then you should check out Kinectimals. I bought this game with my four year old daughter, Leela, firmly in mind, but I can’t lie to you. I’m just going to confess straight away and clear my gaming conscience by telling you that I’ve played it more than she has.
For me one of the attractions of Kinect was the lack of controllers, which I thought would really engage younger gamers, and from what I have seen this has largely worked. While Leela gets frustrated with the joystick and button pressing requirements of the other consoles, she has really been captivated by the Xbox 360 Kinect games. Despite all the criticisms of Kinect as a concept, I actually feel this is its strength – bringing the fun and imagination of gaming to younger audiences, and allowing families to play together while minimizing any ergonomic issues.
Set on a tropical type island, the gameplay of Kinectimals is simple. You arrive on the island to be greeted by your guide, Bumble (a cross between a meercat and a fairy – Heaven knows what the designers were drinking that day). Bumble quickly explains that you are the first visitor to the island in a long time and that he would like you to adopt some of its inhabitants. These inhabitants are a small band of extremely cute animal cubs ranging from a Bengal tiger to a black panther. You can play with each and form a bond while naming, playing, grooming and teaching them tricks. Through this process you are encouraged to explore the island at your own pace, play lots of mini games (around 30 in all), find treasure, and generally have a whole lot of fun interacting with your new furry friends. The island itself is divided into sections and these are unlocked as you achieve scores through the mini games. You can also play with the cubs outside of the mini games, getting them to chase Frisbees or fetch balls, and earn coins which you can then exchange at the island shop for such things as new collars, toys and grooming items. The animation of the cubs is excellent and they each have their own personalities.
The game does a good job in general of tracking your movements whether it’s driving a buggy around to knock over various obstacles, racing your cub around an obstacle course, or using a hose to knock down skittles. It also fares well in terms of the aerodynamics of thrown objects, and you must take into account that different items need to be thrown as you would in real life (harder, softer, or with more/less arc). There is also an element of exercise built in, as you have to jump, squat and run to complete some of the mini games. Kinectimals has also done a great job on the graphics front. There’s a lot of detail here and the various baby animals look gorgeous, as do the various environments of the island. Water is excellently done, with some nice physics and reaction effects. The cubs’ AI is well achieved. If you ignore them they’ll often pick their favorite toy out and bring it for you to play with, and if you continue to ignore them, then they’ll use various AI tactics to get you to interact or go and do something themselves. This level of interactivity is engaging for younger players, but it also works on grizzled old gamers like myself.
Kinectimals is a good solid game that’ll last you many hours, and it’s fun for kids (both big and small). The motion control is fairly spot-on and the interaction between both the player and the Kinect is virtually flawless. There’s a lot of responsiveness here and very little lag in terms of movement tracking. This game is going to keep you fit and keep the kids active and involved. The only real let down is a layer of repetition that exists in many of the mini-games and tasks. Its strengths lie in the engagement of the animals, the beautiful graphics and the ability to take things as fast or slow as the mood takes you. If you have kids and want to interact with them from a gaming perspective, then this game has all you need!