Let me introduce you to my newest friend, T-Pain. I met him in the forest and he’s the most loveliest, snuggliest, lovable scamp in the world! I just want to hug him and squeeze him and run through the flowers with him laughing and dancing all day. My name is Henry Osadzinski, I’ve been playing Kinectimals and I couldn’t feel more awkward right now.
In case you’re wondering, T-Pain is my cuddly little lion cub. Upon booting up Kinectimals I was greeted by Bumble, the most annoying creature (some kind of meerkat/bee hybrid?) in the entire world. He informed me that these adorable creatures had been abandoned on the island over two hundred years ago (just ignore it, it doesn’t make sense) and were just waiting for someone to come and love them again. Seeing the joy in their eyes as they bounced happily waiting for me to make a decision, I picked T-Pain (my choice of name) and watched his brothers and sisters slink off, dejected and unloved. I didn’t feel bad though – I had my own lion cub! That’s awesome!
While T-Pain’s siblings sat rejected and crying somewhere dark and lonely, we were having a blast. By moving my hands, I was able to interact with him: petting him, feeding him and playing with a wide range of toys. The interface felt remarkably fluid and, other than some disturbing autonomous finger-waggling, my intentions were perfectly realised on-screen. When I stepped to the side, my view of the forest changed and when I waved a treat in front of T-Pain’s face the tug-of-war we had felt authentic and lag-free. I just wish I could bat the incessantly yammering Bumble out of the way.
Other than the ramblings of a clearly insane, attention-starved mascot, the forest is filled with the typical, tranquil sounds of nature. T-Pain’s mild purring and playful yelps were authentic enough to make my real cat go crazy at the TV. The soundtrack is inoffensive and could be seen as bland but, in a game of this type, it’s not essential to have an epic score as much as it is to keep the mood light.
For a game that’s bound to provoke comparisons to Nintendogs, Kinectimals is a worthy successor in terms of visuals. The forest is beautifully realised with lush meadows, thick forests and wonderful lighting that reacts realistically as it shines down through the canopy above. T-Pain himself was just as impressive. Remember marvelling over the fur effects in Pixar’s movies a few years ago? Kinectimals had me similarly awestruck.
As gorgeous and technically impressive as Kinectimals is, you probably won’t like it. If you’ve ever obliterated a zombie, no-scoped from across a map or managed a perfect victory, you’re too old and too experienced to be playing in the jungle with a bicentennial big cat. If you have a young gamer in the making however, and want to give them the best possible first experience (them watching you play Halo doesn’t count), then this is an essential Kinect purchase. Requiring less exertion than many of the 360’s other motion-games, Kinectimals gently introduces a wide range of gameplay mechanics through its many minigames.
These bite size objectives are the perfect way to get a child interacting with a game and understand how their movements can be translated into in-game events. As you unlock more areas in the jungle and surrounding island you’ll find simple challenges including RC-car races and shooting galleries, all of which reward you with new toys and cubs to play with. Yes, I felt a moment of childlike glee the first time T-Pain responded to my calls and fetched his favourite ball but I quickly realised how absurd I looked and soon grew tired frolicking. I must admit, I was glad I could just turn him off without feeling guilty or neglectful. I would not be a great or responsible lion owner, it seems.
If you’re looking for a more sophisticated gaming experience with Kinect then you won’t find it here. Kinectimals is a superbly well presented title which is sure to outlast the majority of AAA titles available at the moment – provided you’re aged eight and under. For parents looking to justify the £130 camera under their TV, this is essential. Anyone else should probably look elsewhere unless you really like cats.
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