Even at my cynical age, I have to admit that the first time my Kinectimal bounded towards my phone's screen, the handset vibrating as his paws padded against the display, I smiled.

I'm most definitely not in Kinectimals's target audience – case in point, the names I've given my band of furry friends are far too explicit to disclose on the pages of Pocket Gamer – but I've found myself dipping into it outside working hours nonetheless.

Whether you're in bed or lazing on the sofa, Kinectimals is the perfect pal to play around with during those cosy moments under the covers (no sniggering at the back).

As much as that might sound like a glowing recommendation of Frontier's first run on Windows Phone, be warned: to describe it as a 'game' would be to stretch the truth just a little.

Trick and treat

That rather large issue aside, there's no reason not to enjoy Kinectimals's well-balanced package for what it is, however you personally happen to classify it.

Like Nintendogs before it, the main premise behind Kinectimals is the antithesis of most games: there's no fighting off evil entities, collecting rings, or dropping into the Reich behind enemy lines here.

Instead, you'll spend most of your time doing the simpler things in life: stroking fluffy bellies, throwing bouncy balls, and teaching your cub to do tricks.

It's these two last elements that come closest to something resembling gameplay. Tricks – initially delivered via tutorials before moving on to increasingly trickier timed tasks – are pulled off by swiping your finger across the screen in a multitude of directions.

Some are easier to achieve than others, and unfortunately the game doesn't always read your inputs correctly.

Also, for reasons best known to Frontier, once you've mastered the tricks you can only perform them in a designated Trick mode rather than in general interaction, which undoubtedly breaks the game's flow.

Island hopping

In other areas, things progress almost without any input from yourself. Your cub will frequently prompt you to play with him, dropping a ball in front of you which you can then toss in his direction simply by flicking your finger.

This game is also a trick in itself, with an increasing array of more unpredictable balls keeping you on your toes as you try to rack up a rally of catches.

It's not the most taxing of tasks, of course, but then activities in Kinectimals aren't designed to please you but rather placate your primitive pal.

As such, credit you earn mastering all the moves on offer can then be spent on treats and toys for your cub. As well as tickling him on his face or belly – probably the most satisfying and coincidentally schmaltzy part of Kinectimals – you can also transport him to new locations on the game's utopian island to keep him engaged.

There's undoubtedly a feeling that these actions aren't really tied together, however. Everything feels like a mini-mode of its own.

To play or not to play

For instance, the ability to snap photos of your animals – or even transplant them onto existing snaps in your collection – is the kind of social feature that the Facebook generation is likely to take advantage of en masse.

For those with the Xbox 360 version, it's also possible to link up the two games – not the kind of feature that's likely to sell Kinectimals on Windows Phone to the masses, but a healthy sign of Microsoft's ambitions to push the franchise cross-platform.

No would could deny Kinectimals isn't full of nice touches, but once all said tricks have been let out of the box it's hard to know just how often you'll continue to dip into it.

It's likely developer Frontier is entirely aware of this – Kinectimals was never designed to take on the platformer's top performers when it comes to monopolising play time. Instead, the cute and cuddly creatures within act as playful partners to fill the odd spare moment.

It's an experience that, as a result, never really translates into a full-on game (the score below reflecting its 'failings' in that area from a Pocket Gamer perspective), but Kinectimals is no flop, instead acting as a flagbearer for for furry friend simulators on mobile the world over.


As cute as its console cousin, Kinectimals deserves much praise for delivering a top class interactive experience, but it would be remiss to categorise it as a game
Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.