|System: X360 (Kinect)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Frontier Developments||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 4, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
They're so cute! Unless your heart is made of the blackest coal from the darkest depths of the Earth, those are likely to be the very first words that leap forth from your lips when you turn on Kinectimals. The next words will probably be, "ew, what is that thing?" as you're introduced the game's weird weasel-fairy narrator. Much of the rest of the game follows this same pattern. Many things are adorable, but many other things are odd and questionable.
What's perhaps oddest about Kinectimals is that it's barely a pet simulator. Maybe I got the wrong impression from this game, but my understanding was that it would be the kind of game where you nurture and play with your pet. For better or worse, that's not really the case. Your cub is really only a small part of the picture and generally functions merely as a cute thing to look at while you're playing assorted minigames.
The minigames are really the heart of the experience here -- which is a pretty bad thing considering a huge amount of them are repetitive or difficult to control. Far too many of these games are based simply on throwing objects at other objects. Sure, your cat will fetch the thrown object and bring it back occasionally, but the feline is not a truly necessary part of the equation.
Certain games are fun, but you'll end up playing those far too often before the end. In fact, it's required that you replay the same games. Your experience bar fills up as you complete activities or take care of your cub, so reusing toys and items is essential to leveling up. We expect level grinding in a role-playing game, but it's somewhat baffling in a kids' game.
The island itself is an ex-pirate base, and as such is filled with treasures and interesting things to explore. The pirates left behind plenty of things for you to collect and artifacts for you to discover. Players even get their own apartment-style lodging to decorate; this fun dollhouse mechanic will engage people who like to decorate. There are tons of things you can use to spruce up the joint: lamps, chairs, wall hangings, etc. This adds a much-needed inspiration for players to continue on during the boring times. Even if you're tired of throwing a rubber chicken around a field, you'll be inspired to continue by the promise of cool new items.
Kinectimals suffers from many of the same problems of almost every Kinect game. The controls are occasionally spotty, and they keep making me jump all over my apartment. This would be noisy and obnoxious if it was a sixty-pound little boy jumping around in my living room, but it's downright architecturally unsafe to have a grown person doing so. Then, half the time the game didn't even recognize my jumps and I had to redo it at least once. In Kinectimals, I had to essentially jump as high as I'm capable of just to get it to register. It might have been fine if it registered little bunny hops, but full-on slam dunks are simply not fun. This is tiring, obnoxious, and embarrassing for a motion-control system. This next-generation hardware is going to need to do a lot better.
There are plenty of things Kinectimals does right though. Many of them revolve around the often superb graphics the game supports. It's probably the single best-looking game that the Kinect launch lineup has to offer. That's mostly due to the wonderfully cute little cubs that accompany you on your journey. They're fuzzy, well-animated, and they have tons of different actions depending on the circumstance. Watching their little feet mish-mash up and down when you brush them is beyond cute.