Microsoft, App Store.
Large amount of content; awww factor
As a kid, I really wanted a cat. My parents, however, were firmly opposed. Had I been able to seek refuge in something like Microsoft’s Kinectimals for iOS, which provides plenty of the benefits of pet ownership without the need for the manifold downsides – like cleaning out a litter box, I would have.
Based on an Xbox 360 game of the same name, the $3 Kinectimals lets you train, feed and play with different varieties of big cat cubs, from an African Lion, to a Royal Bengal Tiger, to th e somewhat more exotic Sand Cat. You can name each of your cats and switch between them at will. (Any experience you gain with one transfers to all your other cats.)
The Kinectimals Xbox game was one of the first to take advantage of Microsoft’s Kinect, but where that version relied on your body movements to interact with your cub, the iOS version uses touch gestures. From the descriptions I’ve seen of the Xbox version, the iOS game offers somewhat fewer options, too.
There’s still plenty to do, here, though. Cubs can be taught a variety of tricks, including backflips, spins and even how to play dead (which would seem a tactic antithetical to their predatory nature). Tutorials walk you through the gestures to instruct your cat and challenges let you compete against the clock to perform a specified set of tricks. You can also spend time having your cat jump rope or fetch a variety of balls.
All of these challenges earn you experience that help you progress through a variety of levels of cub training. Those levels let you unlock additional cubs beyond the six available to you at the start; more tricks, challenges and items; and additional scenery, such as an ancient temple, a cherry blossom grove and more.
Beating tutorials and challenges also earns you coins, which can be spent in the shop on various items for your pet, including food, drink, collars and toys. In a refreshing move, the currency is entirely virtual – there’s no way, in other words, to trade actual cash for in-game money. That’s good, since your cat will prompt you when it gets hungry, thirsty or wants to be played with – each of which will often require you to visit the store to stock up on food, drink or toys.
Adults and older kids probably won’t find most of the challenges too taxing, aside from the occasionally persnickety gesture interpretation. (I swear I drew that jumping spin perfectly!) The game’s emphasis on fetching balls and rope-skipping can get repetitive, but the photo challenges, in which you take pictures of your surroundings and superimpose your cat, will probably provide a fair degree of amusement. I also ran into a few bugs, especially in the ball-fetching games, where my cat simply got stuck in a loop or the ball never appeared. This can usually be fixed by force-quitting and restarting the game, but it can be frustrating if you’re in the middle of a challenge.
While many of the challenges are repetitive, there’s more depth here than I expected. I continued unlocking new tricks and challenges long after I thought I would have run through the game’s options.
Though you can transfer your progress to an Xbox 360 version of the game, I was unable to test this (I have an Xbox, but not a Kinect); I would like, however, to see the ability to sync your progress between multiple iOS devices.
Kinectimals’s biggest saving grace is simply that it’s exceedingly cute. The modelling on the cats is realistic and well done and I dare you to refrain from letting out an awwwww when your cat meeps after being knocked over by a missed rope jump. If you leave your cat alone too long, he’ll scamper around the screen, even putting his paws up to the glass and leaping over the camera.
Younger kids will probably get the most out of Kinectimals and they can do so without taking a big bite out of their parents’ wallets. The only real downside is that, unsatisfied with a virtual cub, they might just redouble their pleas for a real jungle cat.