The mobile version of Kinectimals originally launched as a Windows Phone 7 exclusive title, as might have been expected given it’s first-party publishing arrangement, but in the months since launch both iOS and now Android owners have the opportunity to download the virtual pet software. A little backwards you might think, in terms of Microsoft Studios’ marketing drive for their relatively youthful mobile format, but one can only assume the multi-format launch has come about as a result of an unspoken business agreement as opposed to the need to increase the potential audience. And while a number of features do remain exclusive to Windows Phone 7 – namely Achievements and Xbox LIVE hosted leaderboards – the core experience across the three formats is largely the same.
Kinectimals for mobile formats is as you might expect: a more compact sister title to the Xbox 360 Kinect outings. The essence of the videogame is largely the same, though given the change of input device and computational abilities Kinectimals on mobiles is an adaptation of the interaction offered by home consoles, rather than a recreation of it. The player begins by picking their cub just as with the home console version, and ventures to the island it inhabits, but beyond this Kinectimals on mobile and home console are two very different perspective of the same gameplay model
Here on mobile formats Kinectimals has no overarching agenda. There are new areas to unlock and an owner grade scale to climb, but unlike the home console version of Kinectimals there is no lead for the player to follow. Whereas the home console version has a guide on-hand and offers suggestions for progress, the mobile version simply says ‘here’s your cub, why don’t you have a play?’ And of course there’s nothing wrong with this, especially given the intention to treat Kinectimals as a pick-up-and-play title; on a mobile format, it’s typically much easier to invest a short burst of play time here-and-there when there is no need to recap on your previous outings.
As well as the familiar feeding, cleaning and petting activities, Kinectimals presents trick challenges. There are a number of varied inputs which will command your cub to do jumps, flips, play dead and more, and the trick challenges steadily build in complexity until you are performing elaborate sequences of inputs. The difficulty curve of these challenges is remarkably well balanced, with players able to quickly move from jump and sit to spin and flip. Skipping challenges and ball challenges, which concentrate on timing and accuracy respectively, are also available and so too benefit from the commendable increase in difficulty.
As players engage with Kinectimals they will earn XP which builds their trainer level. When passing a new grade additional items become available to purchase with the funds earned by successfully completing challenges, but also new tricks and areas of the island will eventually unlock. It’s a simple and familiar way to chart progress, but again it lends itself well to quick and short bursts of gameplay: near everything you do during that five minute wait for the bus will help with your trainer level progress.
From a technical standpoint, Kinectimals is a fine presentation. The amount of detail presented on the cubs is remarkable, and the backgrounds – though limited – exude familiar character; sandy beaches, lush grassland and snowy peaks play home to your ball throwing and skipping activities. That being said, this visual competence obviously comes at the expensive of wider detail: there are no wide view shots, no additional characters and no interactive elements. Kinectimals looks good in its immediate presentation because there is nothing else to be drawn. But the developers have clearly recognised this, as using the import/export feature that allows you to transfer your cub from mobile handset to Xbox 360 sees your cub come to life in a much richer environment, without losing any of the personality installed by your pocket based gameplay.
Available now at a pocket money price, Kinectimals is undeniably an essential purchase for fans of the home console edition. As a standalone title it may not have the depth of some competing virtual pet titles, but it arguably does have the finer visual and aural quality. Gamers will already know what to expect from Kinectimals, and will be able to make that decision as to whether it’s something they’d enjoy without the need of a review, for the more casual player however, it comes down to a case of prioritising: if you’ve not yet picked-up a virtual pet title for your mobile handset and are looking to do so, Kinectimals is certainly one of the finest investments you could make.