|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Frontier Developments|
|Release: October 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||/td>|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Before I played Kinectimals: Now with Bears!, I suffered from a serious prejudicial problem. You see, I didn't like bears. I thought they were scary flesh-eating monsters that came out of the woods to attack innocent campers. How wrong I was. It took Kinectimals to show me that instead of evil man-killing beasts, bears are actually cute, fuzzy creatures that like being petted and scratched behind the ears. Welcome to the world of Kinectimals: Now with Bears!
I actually never played the original Kinectimals, so this version of the game was a completely fresh experience for me. It starts players off on a mystical island with a slightly annoying fairy fox who talks about her pirate friends and how there's a secret hidden kingdom. After about fifteen minutes of explanation, it's finally time to select an animal. You can choose either the tiger "adventure" or the bear route. I immediately went for the bears, and was able to choose from a grizzly, cinnamon, panda, black bear, or polar bear. You can play with all of them before you make your choice, but they all kind of act the same. And yes, they are all ridiculously cute.
Being the ironic person I am, I chose the polar bear for my immediate companion, and to keep up with the tropical atmosphere I named him Snowball. It was an obvious choice. After naming him, it was time to learn how to do some basic interaction. Petting the bear involves sticking your hand out in front of you and then making small petting movements. You can also move around to the left and right to pet the bear on the side.
After giving some preliminary affection to Snowball, it was time to learn some gesture-based tricks. The game then gently introduces food, toys, and tools. Taking care of your bear is never really a chore or a necessity, but the more you play with it, the more points you will earn. As you earn points, new areas of the island will be unlocked, offering new minigames, new objects to play with, and eventually new bears.
The game also introduces light story elements with the discovery of each new area. It might feel a bit superfluous to a regular gamer, but it's a nice way to keep younger players engaged. Everything that happens in the game is very predictable, but seeing the story reach its inevitable conclusion has some merit. Of course, that's not to say that there's not a whole bunch to do with your bear, as there's a huge amount of choice here. And the more you play, the more content you'll unlock, so it is in your best interest to play all the minigames and participate in every challenge to get the most out of the game.
Unfortunately, once you have finished the game's adventure mode, there isn't much else to do. The game doesn't make unlocking content very difficult, and unless you want to replay through the story with a different species of bear or one of the game's big cats, you won't find much enjoyment past the initial story mode. However, if you're getting the game for a very young child, they may enjoy playing back through the minigames and improving their score.
The game has a very solid format, and also has some great production values to go along with it. Visuals are very smooth, and bears are animated with a fine attention to detail. The island landscape also looks great, featuring lush tropical foliage and some bright vistas. Though playing with a polar bear in the bright sunlight did feel a little weird at first, little kids are sure to lap up the colorful visuals right away.