Review: Kinectimals

Have you always wanted to own a pet tiger, but didn’t want it clawing up your couch? Now you can with the aptly named Kinectimals, the animal simulator game for Kinect.

I’m going to start with the obvious: Kinectimals is super cute. I’m talking “you want to have a vom from the amount of sweetness” cute. You just want to physically reach into your television and hug the kitties, although their smiling faces are a bit creepy. I’m sure children will find it lovely and endearing, but I just found it weird. My real life cats seem to like the on-screen ones though – they try to talk to them and jump up to paw at the TV screen. Take their word for it – these look like real big cat cubs.

Now, it’s pretty obvious that this game is aimed at younger players. Actually, it probably says something about me that this was one of the main games I was looking to pick up when the Kinect released. I was hoping for something like Animal Crossing or Viva Piñata, which has that childish appeal but is actually a challenging and rewarding game for adults. It’s a shame I can’t really say this about Kinectimals.

The game progresses through a series of stunning locations where you play with your cat. There’s a bunch of different felines to choose from, and you unlock plenty more as you go. You play with different toys and undertake various activities, like tricks and patting. The game likes to suggest a host of quick challenges, depending on what item you are using at the time. Each little activity earns you money and experience. After a few of these, a minigame challenge will unlock to earn you more coins and toys and progress the “story”.

Yes, there is a story. It’s very loose, but with the way the game is set up, it doesn’t need to be amazing. There’s definitely enough to enthral a younger audience. It gets very annoying when you can’t skip most of the cutscenes; there’s a point where you just don’t want to hear about life on the island anymore. There’s only so much of that flying lemur that I can take, even if it is voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz (famous for voicing Dagget in Angry Beavers and Zim in Invader Zim).

Control-wise, the game works very well in the in-game menu (even if it is a bit menu-heavy), for activities like rallying a ball, and most pet tricks (which involve you having to do specific moves in order for the cub to copy you). It fell down with things that involved throwing. My natural instinct is to throw overarm, where the game recommends using underarm shots. I found the accuracy to be really hit-and-miss(!) with balls and discs avoiding targets that I was sure I was aiming at.

Graphically this game is beautiful. Your cub’s fur sways as it moves and when you touch it. There are amazing effects when your cub is up close and breathing on or licking the screen. You can’t help but stop to notice the beautiful locations you’re at when you should be playing with your cub.

Like a small child, your Kinectimal cubs have a very short attention span. Even in the 10 short seconds it takes you to delve into the toy-box to pick out something to play with, your cub will have wandered off screen to rab something themselves. There are rarely times when you’ll be standing around asking “what now?”, as the game makes sure that you’re always busy.

Overall, the gameplay between the minigames can be a bit repetitive, but choosing different toys and activities makes this a bit more bearable. In essence, you can choose to play with whatever you want and decline things your cub brings you if you’re not interested. Some of the minigame challenges are a bit same-y, but they have a nice competitive aspect as you aim for gold medals. You can compete in multiplayer challenges as long as you don’t mind playing one after the other. After every five minigame challenges, you’ll unlock a new area to explore.

If you’re getting bored of one cat, you can easily switch to others that you have found along the way. It’s purely aesthetic as they all access unlocks and learned skills you’ve earned in-game. There’s also a house which you can decorate with furniture and items you uncover or buy from the shop, but there’s really not that much point (aside from getting a couple of achievements!). You’re out in the field so much that the only time you come back to your house is to re-decorate.

I had a lot of fun playing this game, and it took a lot more energy out of me that I expected. It’s definitely not something you can play at for hours at a time. The speed at which you unlock things is constant though, so even a quick play session is rewarding. There really is no way to speed through the game, so you might as well have some fun while you’re going at Kinectimals pace.

Kinectimals is a great launch title. It’s very family friendly and puts all the features of the Kinect to good use. It does get a bit annoying and repetitive during long play sessions, but this is easily forgettable when you come back to play again. The cuteness factor alone makes this game worthwhile for most; if you’re not interested in cute cats and surprisingly energetic minigames, I doubt this is the game for you (and you probably already know this).

A HUGE thank you to guest writer Hammond (of hammond.livejournal.com) for writing this amazing review! –Steve