Adorable is the new black.
Kinectimals is irresistibly cute. Not "flowers and rainbows" cute, but "brand new puppy playing with a cardboard box" cute. Even cynical old me couldn’t resist the occasional “aww” moment, and I found myself on more than one occasion talking to my digital cats with words of encouragement and affection. What has this evil game done to me?
[image1]Eerily, Kinectimals has the power to turn each of us into crazy old cat ladies who lock ourselves in our houses and talk to our virtual pets all day. I was blown away by how compellingly cute and fun these little kitties are to play with. Yes, I’m already a sucker for cats and dogs, but these kitty versions of exotic felines will melt even the most ice-cold space-marine’s heart. Oh, and your kids might like them, too.
Alongside Dance Central, Kinectimals is a showcase of what Kinect is all about. What makes both of these games so good is that neither of them puts the technology first. Instead, they’re well-designed games that were built with the platform in mind. Like Harmonix’s launch title for Kinect, Kinectimals highlights the device’s strengths and cleverly disguises its weaknesses.
The game all takes place on an island that’s like a Never Never Land for kitties. For some undisclosed number of years, a caretaker named Bumble—who looks like a cross between a bee, a cat, and Tinkerbell—has cared for the little cats on the island. You arrive and adopt the little furballs, teach them tricks, and play lots and lots of games with them.
[image2]That’s all there is to it, but it’s the seamlessness with which it all comes together that makes it so compelling. You’ll never have to look for anything to do since your cats will keep bringing activities to you. There’s never a break in the action unless you want one, and you’re constantly progressing since everything you do adds to your discovery (experience) level, which in turn unlocks new areas of the island, new items to play with, and new things to do.
Sure, you could look at this and call it a “minigame collection” but that would be a disservice. This is an evolution of the mini-game genre, a structure that doesn’t feel disjointed, but instead has all of the ebb and flow of a real afternoon spent playing with a pet.
For example, as you start tossing a ball, targets will pop up for you to aim at. Your pet then might want a game of kicking the ball, or it might want to ride a remote control car. One thing flows into another with a constant sense of variety and connection.
[image3]But it’s the personality of the island and of your pets that keep you wanting to play. It’s like an idyllic scene from Old Yeller or My Friend Flicka, but without the tragic endings. Everyone just goes on playing and living forever and ever.
There are many collectibles to find, toys and treats to buy, and items with which to customize your house and pets. And there are hundreds of things to do and places to go. This will keep you, er, I mean, your kids busy for a long time.
It’s no surprise that Kinectimals was designed by the same creative team behind the LostWinds games for Wii. Like LostWinds, this is a game with style and soul, and it was clearly designed by folks who know how to combine good game design with innovative motion technology. It may not be reason enough on its own to rush out and buy Kinect, but it’s damn close.