When I was first told to review this game, I was pretty excited. I mean, what better way to enjoy playing with cute furry little critters than with a nice, cold fermented beverage? I sat back and imagined what would await me. Maybe a crisp Heineken, a refreshing Pacífico, or a hearty Guinness? Then the game arrived. Sans drink.
Despite my initial, thirsty disappointment, Kinectimals: Now with Bears! proves to be a worthy re-release of the Kinect exclusive. The original game let users interact with cute cubs of the feline variety such as tigers, leopards, bobcats and jaguars. The Kinect camera allowed us to literally play with, stroke, and even talk to our pint-sized virtual pets. The immersive and uber-cute gameplay had kids enthralled and was a clever way to showcase the Kinect technology when it launched about a year ago.
Now the cast of four legged nightmares has grown to include bear cubs. There are five breeds of bear chums to get familiar with; Polar bears, Grizzly bears, Black bears, Panda bears and the tasty sounding Cinnamon bear.
Just like the original Kinectimals, players can expect to unlock additional breeds of furry pals as well, including Kodiac bears, Sun bears, Red Pandas (squeal!) and - strangely - Teddy Bears. I haven’t seen one yet but I grow deeply concerned about visions of a stuffed teddy bear running around on screen.
Nevertheless, all of these buggers never grow to be more than harmless adorable little cubs. Parents don’t need to worry about their kids being the victim of terrifying bear attacks in their own lounge.
There's a whole new adventure mode to accommodate your newly adopted baby carnivores that takes place on an island just off the coast of Lemuria (the kitty infested island in the first game). On this new chunk of land - titled Mira - you’ll be meeting and greeting the native cubs as well as even searching for buried treasure on the island.
Thankfully the bear gameplay isn’t just the original game with new models and textures chucked on. The bears behave completely differently, and you’ll need to master a whole new set of mini-games in order to get to know your bear-cubs.
Using yours hands, feet and voice you’ll soon be teaching them how to fish, juggle a ball, fetch, and even climb a tree. It turns out bears and their dog-like attributes are also perfect for the array of new toys and tricks for your new bear-buddy to learn as well. Kicking a virtual ball between the two of you or watching him hoon around on a remote control Warthog are surprisingly emotional experiences.
The bear gameplay alone offers up around ten hours of fur-bonding adventures, packed with fun activities and even an over-arching mystery in which players can solve the Fiddler’s quest. It essentially doubles the gameplay time for those who haven’t played the original and is perfect leading up to Christmas to keep the little ones distracted (and hopefully not asking for pets under the tree).
It’s an interesting concept, taking an original game and re-packaging it with bears. Now we can’t wait for Kinect’s UFC: Trainer – NOW WITH BEARS! That would be awesome. And it would probably be a more inspirational workout to boot.
For owners of the original Kinectimals, this new bear add-on (titled ‘Bear Island’ on the Xbox Live store) can be purchased separately for 1200 Microsoft points and weighs in at around a 1.5 GB download. It is also now available as a retail pack in leading games stores that includes both games - just check that the one you buy has “Now with Bears!” and a panda sneaking out behind that freaky tiger on the box cover.
Click here for our review of the original Kinectimals