They live a peaceful life, the felines of idyllic Lemuria. The only thing they do is play with each other, chase crabs, explore and stay super sweet. Lucky bastards. One day something happens and a human arrives to the island. An adventurer or perhaps an explorer? Well, it's you. Welcome to paradise...
You are introduced to four cats, a panther, a lion, a cheetah and a leopard and you will make one of them happy (and the others miserable, presumably) by picking your favourite. I pick the panther and then I'm taken through the background story by my hovering aid Bumble. It turns out that a captain used to take care of the animals, but he is long since gone. The sailor talked about exotic places and a giant golden cat. Time to search them out.
First I need to get acquainted to my little friend and we play around a bit. He tries to imitate me, and I'm asked to jump on the spot as he will try and do the same. On the fourth try we make it. The response isn't great. Then some interesting happens. I sit down on the couch to make a few notes for this review, Bumble asks me to spin around in front of the couch and I move a couple of fingers at most - and somehow I've done the trick. After that I'm asked to play dead by lying on the floor, and I succeed in the same way. It's almost insulting.
Oh well, one or two mishaps like that are to be expected. Unfortunately they stack up after a few hours. Several challenges have to do with throwing toys or bolls to tip over things - carnival style. The underhand throw is the only one that works I find out, but the precision isn't there at all.
The same goes for the menus, something that seems to be a common thing for all Kinect games. It simply very cumbersome to navigate them and to constantly have to hold out your arm and do sweeping motions is something you'll quickly grow tired of. I can also imagine that it will frustrate younger players when they can't find the right toy in the toy box.
The more you play with and care for your cat, the more points you are rewarded. These fill a meter and when it reaches certain levels new areas of the island are unlocked. There is a map to aid you, and the sense of gradually unlocking stuff gives the player a certain sense of accomplishment.
The sweet graphics of Kinectimals makes me linger on for a little while extra. The animals are as cute as anything I've seen, and move realistically and sport high res fur. When they smell or lick the camera lense it fogs up and saliva is left on it, which is a lot cuter than it sounds. Lemuria itself is a place I wouldn't mind living in myself, especially on a boring autumn month like this. It's just a shame that the game keeps you statically in special spots, and that there is no free exploration of the island.
Kinectimals is a truly charming concept, and as a fan of Nintendogs and similar titles, I had certain hopes for it even if I'm not part of the intended audience. But in the end the furry fun is spoiled by poor response, frustrating menus, and the limitations of the Kinect camera itself. Sorry little panther, you're going to have to find a new and more patient daddy I'm afraid.