Kinectimals is an advanced cyber-pet game in which you can name, play with, stroke, tickle, wash and feed several baby animals. It features a range of extremely cute cubs to nurture, including a cheetah, an African lion and leopard, a panther and a Royal Bengal tiger.
With realistic graphics, incredible sound and thoroughly intuitive gameplay, maybe you have time in your life for an virtual animal cub? Read on for more info… and get ready to emit more ‘aaah’s and ‘oooh’s than you will want to acknowledge.
Wannabe Animal Handler?
As a new owner of a baby cub, you need to learn how to take care of it. There are plenty of ways to interact with the cub, and as you progress more actions are unlocked. You essentially perform finger strokes on the screen while in “trick mode” and the cub performs the associated actions in response. You can get your cub to jump, sit, do a barrel roll, backflip, act like a spinning top and play dead, among other tricks – and they’ll even play ball with you.
These actions are all very simple to perform, but the game still provides handy tutorials for each of them. As well as the tutorials, there are also timed challenges to complete, such as skipping for a set period without making a mistake.
Royal Bengal Tiger Cub
As well as the actions, tricks and challenges, you will need to feed, water and wash your cub. Completing actions gives you enough coins to purchase food and drink, and the in-game shop provides plenty of choice which extends the more you progress in the game. Feeding is a very simple process of finding the food in the inventory and tapping it. If you visit the Certificate screen, it will tell you what kind of mood your cub is in, which is helpful when it comes to caring for them.
Choose one of several cubs available, then name them however you wish
Another fun element of the game is tickling. Cubs love being tickled. To do this, you just need to tap on the cub and she or he will come closer. Then just tickle the screen repeatedly under their chin. Do it well enough and they’ll roll over and let you tickle their tummies and so on. The same actions are required when you’re washing them, which they also clearly enjoy.
Washing my Panther cub
In addition to the interactions, Kinectimals provides a varied gaming environment to explore. From the main cub-view screen there are four buttons to press: Pause, which presents you with options to choose a different cub; Xbox 360 transfer; Help and Exit. You make progress in the game by gaining experience points (XP), which you receive by performing tasks with your cub. These are recorded and your progress can be followed on the Certificate screen which also displays your cub’s mood and how many coins you have.
Achievement Certificate; rank, mood of cub, money and XP
On the right of the screen is the Challenges tab, which includes tutorials, tricks and challenges to practice and perform and features all the things your cub will have learnt. Finally there is the Inventory screen. Here you will find the shop, map (sections of the map unlock as you progress giving you new areas for your cubs to play in), camera (for taking all manner of shareable pictures of your cub), trick mode, food, drink, balls, jump ropes, collars, pendants and care items. You can purchase more of these from the shop as they become unlocked.
Shop menu, more items become available as they are unlocked
Graphics and Sound
As perhaps you’d expect from a game that’s also available on the Xbox 360, the graphics look fantastic. Obviously the game is full of animation and the cubs’ movement is very realistic. The level of detail is really impressive and the environments are rich with life and colour. The whole game is extremely tactile and these graphics make it all the more immersive and intuitive.
Perhaps one criticism is that some of the cubs’ actions do obviously repeat after a while. If you leave them to their own devices they race around and amuse themselves, even climbing on the virtual camera you observe them through – it’s cut, but after a while it becomes a little repetitive.
Climbing about on top of the camera
The sound is equally amazing. There appear to be several gentle music tracks which are played in the background and a wealth of environmental sound effects: waves, tweeting birds and more. The effects of the cubs themselves are especially impressive, with a wide range of sounds and noises – even realistic thumping noises as they pad around on the grass, fall over or land after jumping.
In a very playful mood
The great thing is, none of these sound effects ever really feel repetitive and while you can come to expect which noises will be made, it’s not predictable enough to make it feel annoying.
Virtual pets (also known as digital or cyber pets) have been hugely popular since the release of the original Tamagotchi in 1996. From that time, these pets have come in all shapes and sizes, on browsers, desktop, consoles and mobile. There are even robots and physical toys that display the kind of behaviour (and have the same demands) you would associate with software-based pets. For example, many consider the likes of Sony’s AIBO and Hasbro’s Furby to be virtual pets too.
It might be argued that Microsoft’s Kinectimals are probably among the most developed and usable of the software variety of virtual pet. The rich graphics and realistic sounds are designed to invoke a genuine human response from gamers and, despite the animal cubs essentially being very many lines of code, they’re certainly very endearing and cute.
The game lets you jump rope with your selected cub.
On Android, you might find alternatives in the likes of Mobbles or any of the various Tamagotchi clones you can find in the Google Play Store. As these apps go, however, Kinectimals certainly has the edge in terms of realism – the graphics and sound alone are astonishing in comparison.
Obviously these cute bundles of virtual fluff are not going to be to everyone’s tastes and you might feel uncomfortable invoking the loud-yet-satisfied purrs of a baby Cheetah while riding on public transport. However, I will bet that any one of your children, nieces or nephews will utterly adore Kinectimals. In fact, I lost my phone for about two hours after showing it to one of my kids.
Be sure to feed and water your cub. They'll often bring you their bowl to fill.
While it might not be your cup of tea, there’s no doubting the brilliance and ingenuity of the game. Every part of Kinectimals is rich with diverse gameplay elements – and these slowly grow as your XP increases and you unlock more features. It might not be the cheapest game, but if you like the genre (or have children) it’s certainly worth the money.