You can also teach your cub to do tricks. It will imitate everything you do in front of the camera. Stretch your arms up above you and it will stand up on its hind legs. Lie down and roll over and it'll keel over and play dead, tongue lolling. There are loads of these prompting actions, and the cub also responds pretty effectively to voice commands like "lie down". It's delightfully physical; you don't feel stupid reaching out to pet its fur or take a proffered toy. It feels natural.
Leave the cub alone for a while and it will dash off to grab a toy it feels like playing with. There are tens of different balls, chew toys, spray guns, flying discs and the like, but you interact with most of them in exactly the same way, by either throwing it into the screen, aiming with one arm or using your limbs to bat something back and forth. Underarm throwing and kicking are surprisingly accurate in terms of velocity and trajectory.
One exception is the Plunderscope, used to unearth treasures from the ground. It's like a magic spyglass that reveals the location of buried chests. Once you've found one, you help your cub unearth it by making digging motions with your arms. Usually it contains a decorative item that you can arrange in your jungle hut, alongside all your minigame medals and trophies.
New toys can be bought from a shop run by jittery lemurs, or earned from minigame challenges. These unlock steadily, about one every 20 minutes, and take place in different places around the island, and they all involve playing with toys or doing tricks for points. There's the aforementioned RV car race, obstacle courses, trick competitions and squirt-gun shooting galleries, all themed around the bit of the island they're situated in.
Again, though, there are limitations. Although there are loads of minigames – more than 20 – about three quarters of them involve throwing a thing at a target, whether it's hitting crabs with a boot, kicking a football into bubbles or hooking sombreros onto poles. There are only a few that you'd want to play more than once. It's a good thing that there's always a new one right around the corner.
Kids will absolutely love Kinectimals, although very small ones will probably have trouble with the disciplined positioning that Kinect needs to work properly. I'd have gone completely mental over this when I was eight and owned a menagerie of stuffed lions and tigers. Kinectimals is actually releasing alongside a series of plush toys, with tags that you can scan to bring them to life in the game as well. Maybe children aren't so easily impressed by technology nowadays, but I'd have thought that was just magical.
Where some Kinect launch titles consist of one or two decent ideas stretched painfully thin, Kinectimals has plenty of different challenges in a lovely, adorable framework. And it really is irresistibly cute. But it's also limited, and repetitive, and overly prescriptive, scared of letting you just play around and experiment without giving you constant, intrusive goals.
Children won't care as much about the hand-holding, though, and people with a sensitive cuteness reflex will be willing to forgive everything that's wrong with Kinectimals every time their panther cub rolls over and bats the air with those big furry paws. Of all the Kinect launch titles, this is perhaps the one with the most actual substance. Hopefully it's but a hint of things to come.