Kinectimals Review for Xbox 360

Kinectimals Review for Xbox 360

The cutest little critters

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.

Kinectimals screenshot

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.

Kinectimals screenshot

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.

Kinectimals screenshot

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.

Sometimes, though, it can be a bit confusing which animal these animals are. They act like dogs more than they act like cats. I have two cats, and let me tell you, cats do not play fetch. And yet a large number of the games revolve around that mechanic. Cats also don’t help you dig up things, but that’s a mechanic too. Kinectimals occasionally seems to wish the game was about dogs rather than felines.

Kinectimals screenshot

The soundtrack is generally very good. It mostly consists of ambient tracks. They function well as background music and are never distracting. They simply add a sense of wonder to the entire experience, making it feel almost magical.

Aiding in that mystical sensation is the ridiculous, often obnoxious, narrator. He tries his best to be cute, but it fails. With no exaggeration, this “thing” looks like a weasel cross-bred with a fairy. Horrifying. What’s more, he sometimes isn’t even all that nice. I once heard him say to my cat, “kitty, stop that! Don’t make me get the hose!” Sure, he chuckled afterward, but joking or not, that was kind-of mean!

Kinectimals represents an important niche that Microsoft needs to fill. It’s clear that they’re attempting to conquer the same market that the Nintendo Wii won in 2006. Their marquis games so far are mostly dancing games and workout games. But as Kinectimals captures the imaginations of their new buyers, they could very well turn this into a family-friendly product. After all, some consumers might be hesitant to buy a product bundle just as a workout machine, but if it could babysit the kids as well that could be an enticing offer.

This game isn’t going to be for everyone, but I think kids will get some enjoyment out of the experience. I don’t have the ability to see this game through a child’s eyes, but I think that once you add in a child’s sense of wonderment and imagination this could be a compelling experience. If there were more variety in the mini-games and the controls worked just a bit better, then this would be a highly recommendable game. As it stands, this is only recommended if you have a child who really loves cute, cuddly things. An enormous love of the cute and cuddly is the only thing that will distract you long enough to not notice the repetition.

The Kinectimals themselves are good-looking, and the environments are lush but non-interactive. 3.5 Control
Normally it’s decent enough, but on occasion, especially when two hands are on-screen, the accuracy goes down. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The narrator is fairly annoying, but the ambient soundtrack is often beautiful. 3.4 Play Value
A lot of it is repetitive, but there’s a decent amount of gameplay here. There are many things to do, and it will take many hours to fully explore the island. 3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Get in touch with your wild side. Your journey begins when you adopt and name one of twenty playful friends, including a lion, cheetah, and Bengal tiger.
  • Create memories that last a lifetime. From the first time she recognizes her name to when she learns to fetch, your cub will grow up as your sidekick, eager to discover the island around you. She will always be ready for a scratch and a belly rub with smiles and purrs.
  • Discover, collect, and customize. Kinectimals rewards those who are curious about the island they live on. Travel far and wide to discover treasures and toys, and find and unlock new environments. You can customize your pet and decorate your home, plus use the in-game store to shop for items to nurture and care for your new best friend.

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