We've already seen quite a few variations of motion controls with the initial set of Kinect launch titles, but Kinectimals stands as one of the more unique of the bunch. Rather than the usual barrage of challenges you'd expect from a game release, Kinectimals instead offers up a more relaxing playing experience that allows the player to teach and care for their animal cub while occasionally tossing in a contest to keep things competitive.
While there are a number of goals and challenges strung throughout the game, the majority of what you'll find yourself doing in Kinectimals revolves around teaching and caring for your cub. You'll be able to teach it tricks, feed it, groom it and even pet it. Of course there are also challenges and contests that will allow you to unlock new areas, not to mention buried treasures to find and dig up.
Everything you do in Kinectimals is accomplished via the Kinect motion controls. That means when you're asked to teach your cub tricks, you'll have to perform them yourself. Of course, when you finally find yourself laying flat on your back with your legs in the air while playing dead, you'll realise that any semblance of dignity you had has long since passed. If you're not up to it, you can always just use the voice commands to train the cub.
When you unlock new areas, you can then take part in the contest that goes along with it. You'll be able to win medals and trophies based upon your performance. These range from tossing items at specific targets to driving a tiny remote-controlled car around a race track. You can even bring in other players to take part if you've got additional players on hand, and these contests are a good way to win medals and trophies as well as new items.
Of course the challenges and contests aren't the only activities in the game. You'll also be able to search for buried treasure, decorate your house with the treasure you win and find, not to mention shop the store to buy new items for you and your cub to play with. There's something rather liberating about getting down on your hands and knees and digging into your carpet for buried treasure, at least as long as there's no one around to see you doing it.
The motion controls are set up quite well, but many of the same limitations we've already seen in other Kinect releases pop up from time to time. The tossing element is one part of the controls that can feel a bit erratic at times, but it does seem to get better once you find a method that works best for you. Tricks are very easy to execute and the voice recognition is extremely accurate as well. Even with the few hitches in the motion controls, it's difficult to fault the game as the majority of the controls are well implemented and very forgiving.
If there's one aspect of Kinectimals that truly shines it's the visual presentation. The game is absolutely gorgeous from start to finish and not only is the scenery amazing, but the animals themselves are equally stunning. The vivid colour scheme makes the game really pop onscreen and makes the game really come to life. Even with some of the already impressive Kinect launch titles, it would be hard to beat the visual eye candy found throughout this release.
The musical presentation tends to be fairly minimal for the most part, but the voiced dialogue of your host Bumble more than makes up for it. You won't have much time to catch other pieces of audio in between Bumble's nearly constant rambling. That's not to say it's overly annoying, it's just extremely plentiful. In all honesty there's not a big need for a lot of overblown musical tracks given the game's natural setting.
What you get out of Kinectimals will depend heavily on how old you are and what your expectations are going into it. The game is obviously geared towards younger children with its cute and cuddly presentation and forgiving controls, but it's probably a bit too simplistic to offer the kind of challenge more seasoned gamers are looking for. Of course if you've been looking for a good excuse to roll around on the floor, this is as good as any.