Interacting with your pet Kinect-styleFrom the days of the Tamagotchi craze to the Nintendogs phenomenon, youngsters continue to be fascinated by the seemingly banal act of owning and caring for a virtual reality pet. Kinectimals is the latest game to try and tap into that particular market, but with the camera peripheral Kinect at the centre of the action, it promises to do more than most to bring your pet to life, allowing you to interact with your play-mate in a way that hasn’t been possible before.
The fact that the title of the game, “Kinectimals,” is plural suggests that there’s a whole host of wildlife at your fingertips that you can interact with, but in reality there’s just a variety of cats that look a little different. The game begins when you choose your cute cub from the likes of a Royal Bengal Tiger, Black Panther or African Lion, though the choice widens as you progress and unlock even more cats. After naming your pet, you follow a loveable pixie called Bumbles into the colourful forest on the island of Lemuria, where she teaches you how to interact with your new playmate via a variety of gesture-based and vocal commands.
For children, Kinectimals will be a magical experience. With its Disney-quality animation and beautiful locations, you’ll find it hard not to be endeared by the high production values. The first time you shout out “Roll Over,” or “Fetch” and see your pet obey your command, or the first time you spin around and watch him copy you, is very impressive -- it’s quite incredible how we’ve moved so quickly from a tiny pixelated Tamagotchi in the 90’s to what – in 2010 - appears to be a living, breathing creature that interacts with you so smoothly, licking your TV. screen with delight and coyly tilting his head to the side when you tickle his ears. Of course, you still don’t ever touch your pet; you simply perform gestures while standing in front of the camera. Nevertheless, it’s quite amazing how, despite stroking thin air, you still manage to feel that connection with your pet and see your movements translate so accurately on screen.
Kids are going to love the cubs. They look adorable and move realistically with every strand of fur parting in the breeze as they run and jump and perform tricks. The animation is also very impressive, with cubs moving with the same grace of their real-life counterparts. Though the idea of Kinectimals is to nurture your pet and shape his destiny by training him up, earning experience points along the way, you don’t have to spend vast amounts of time feeding, cleaning and worrying about your pet’s health. That Tamaogotchi-style of micro-management plays only a small part in proceedings so there’s no need to worry that your pet will die of malnutrition, in fact it won’t die at all. Instead, Kinectimals is mainly all about having fun and interacting with your pet in a variety of ways that showcase Kinect’s technology very well.