The lights are on
Once you get past its too-clever name, Kinectimals is an adorable treat. It's a natural extension of ideas developed by the Dogz games of yore and the more recent Nintendogs, only with jungle kittens. Using Kinect, players can talk to their adopted pets, teach them tricks, and play games. You're probably not going to get a baby leopard through customs, so this looks like the next best thing.
In our demo, we started by naming the kitty by physically calling out suggestions. Once the cat has found one that it likes, it'll wiggle its ears and smile enthusiastically. A few more times, and the name is imprinted on the animal. From there, you pet the creature until a bond is formed. Some cats like being pet in particular places, and some temperamental ones get testy when the wrong parts are stroked.
Unlike their domesticated real-world counterparts, the animals in Kinectimals are intelligent and can be trained to perform tricks. They'll watch you closely and try their best to mimic your actions. Jump in the air and he'll try to follow suit. Since he's young, he'll flop to the ground adorably the first few times. Patience is key, and after a while your cat can do things like play dead, stand on one leg, and spin in a circle.
One of the parts we didn't see during Microsoft's stage presentation was the agility course minigame. In it, players take direct control of the animal as it negotiates an obstacle course. Starting out, players run in place until they come upon a trick segment. You'll have to balance across a beam, jump over gates, and freeze in place while racing against the clock. It's just one of about 30 activities, according to Microsoft.
So far, this is the most impressive thing we've seen from Kinect. It looks great, and the animals are cute enough to induce cavities. We'll have to see how it fares in the long term. Will it maintain player interest over weeks and months, or can you see everything that's there in a few marathon sessions. One thing's for sure: It's going to make more than a few casual players buy Kinect.
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