Nothing in this world is cuter than a fuzzy little tiger cub. That seems to be the pivot on which Kinectimals is balanced. The levels of cuteness on display are enough to melt the heart of even the most curmudgeonly of visitors to the tranquil island paradise that the game inhabits. The question of whether this title has enough depth to warrant the full retail price is a little more difficult to answer.
You begin the game with a lengthy intro sequence showing a series of different big cat cubs frolicking around an island as a sea plane swoops in to land. You’re greeted to the island of Lemuria by a golden lemur with inexplicable wings and a laugh like Barbara Windsor in the Carry On films. This guy never shuts up. For the whole time we spent exploring the island, unlocking areas, training our chosen cub; Bumble, the flying lemur, never stopped talking for more than two minutes.
It’s like being on a car journey narrated by a cross between Elmo and Barbara Windsor to a script written by the guy in the Disney office who is too saccharine-sweet and cheesy with his dialogue to write for the Disney straight-to DVD movies. We don’t like Bumble. With that said, he’s not really aimed at us and that is an important distinction to keep in mind with Kinectimals.
This game is aimed squarely at the pre-teen market and as far as we can tell, it should be pretty popular. It’s also worth mentioning that it is difficult to call this a game in the traditional sense. Very much in the vein of Nintendogs, the Petz series and EyePet, this is a virtual pet with training games and mini-games to bulk out the fact that what you’re really buying is something that looks cute and fuzzy but won’t ruin your rug when you leave the room to make a cup of tea.
Under the ever-present guidance of Bumble you will select your cub from the initial group (which includes a leopard, cheetah, lion, tiger and panther) and go through the bonding process of naming them and teaching them tricks. You then unlock new areas and new toys and accessories for your cub to play in by completing tasks such as teaching new tricks, grooming your cub or finding buried treasure. There is also a shop, run by lemurs, where you can buy new produce to use in your interaction with the cubs.
There’s really not a lot to Kinectimals. It’s very smart in the way it recognises voice commands and gestures and the mix of throwing, kicking and gesture controlled RC cars that you can employ to play with your cub all work well enough and are sure to entertain the younger members of the family. It’s all executed well but that’s all there is.
The odd setting and bizarre narrative are peculiar if you give them any thought but to be frank, it’s not really supposed to stand up to scrutiny, just give a vague explanation for why these infant cats have always, and will always, be infants.
The ability to purchase real-world plush toys specific to the brand and scan their tags in to have that species available in-game is a smart touch and one which could lead to a mini economy springing up around the game. It could just as easily lead to a bargain-bin full of Kinectimals-branded stuffed toys after Christmas though, as these things are only sustainable if they take off with consumers. So counting on long term replayability is perhaps not advisable.
- It literally couldn’t be cuter without including baby chimps.
- It does what it wants to do perfectly.
- Scratching your cub behind the ears until it purrs like a motorbike is lovely.
- There’s not a lot of variation or content.
- It feels like an extremely guided experience.
- Dialogue and narrative are so cheesy it’s almost embarrassing.
For the market it’s aimed at, Kinectimals probably hits all of its targets. It’s cute, fuzzy and engaging – to a point. The lack of depth and the lightweight narrative don’t offer any incentive to return unless you’re only there because you like looking at fuzzy cats. But then, who doesn’t like looking at fuzzy cats? We can’t overstate how irritating Bumble is though, so if you buy this for a relative this Christmas we’d advise you to put some decent headphones and a new iPod on your own list to Santa.