Make your pets fantastic by attaching horns and wings – not something to be tried at home!
After the initial launch of Kinect, the release of titles for the motion control system on Xbox360 has been slow, with the majority of titles being made up of either mini-game compilations or fitness games. Fantastic Pets from Blitz Games and THQ falls into the mini-game compilation genre. But, unlike the other recently released mini-game titles, Fantastic Pets also belongs in the category of games that seem the perfect subject for controller free gamers of a youthful disposition- the virtual pet genre. With only Kinectimals offering any competition on the Xbox360, how does Fantastic Pets hold up?
Players get to create their own pet to begin with, from a choice of four basic animals – Cat, Dog, Lizard and Pony. But this is only where the fun begins, with the player being able to customise their pet with all manner of different skins, colours and natural accessories such as wings or horns. The ways in which the player changes their pet will have an effect on the way they behave, changing their personality to suit their new look. As the player plays the game, they will obtain Gems which can then be traded for new mini-games or even new body parts, giving them further opportunity to create some really bizarre looking creatures.
From there the player will have access to quite a selection of mini-games, some revolving around general care for the pet whilst others are just for the fun. The games themselves tend to be on the simple side, proving that this title is aimed firmly at the younger end of the market, and will include such activities as waving your arms around, trying to break pinatas and throwing balls through hoops.
The main activity of the game revolves around competing in and winning talent shows, of which the player can enter one each day. These offer a collection of mini-games played against a few AI controlled pets. Winning in these will give the pet points which will allow them to level up, aiming for a maximum ranking of 12. With only one talent show each day, players will get a good two weeks worth of gaming if they want to reach the highest rank.
One of the highlights of Fantastic Pets is that it introduces Kinect gamers to Augmented Reality. In a similar manner to the Eyepet on PS3, Fantastic Pets combines video footage of the players surroundings with their animated pet, giving the impression of the pet actually being in the room with the player. For any younger player who has yet to experience this effect, it really does look quite amazing. The effect works well, but doesn’t seem quite as stable as the Eyepet with the pet often disappearing into the background. But when it works, the young player will get much delight out of being able to stroke their virtual pet and see it interacting with their surroundings.
Kinectimals is a very visually impressive game, and as such it may well be foolish for Fantastic Pets to try and compete. Instead, the developers have opted for a more cartoon look to the game, with brightly coloured backgrounds and the outlandish colour schemes of the pets themselves. This actually works really well and emphasises that this game is not a pet simulator with mini-games thrown in, but a mini-game compilation with a virtual pet theme. It may not have the level of polish found in Kinectimals, but it is bright and colourful enough to keep the attention of it’s target audience.
Compared to Kinectimals, Fantastic Pets doesn’t really measure up. But that is not really fair, as the game offers quite a different experience. It has already been mentioned that the game is certainly aimed at the younger audience and their requirements are vastly different to those of an older gamer. For them, simple gameplay, bright colours and being able to get attached to their pet are the most important things, and Fantastic Pets ticks all of those boxes. For pre-teens, this is a great title on Kinect. Any one older would be better served by visiting their local pet shop.