Fantastical Creatures of All Kinds
THQ have a reputation of funding unique and interesting game design choices, just look at deBlob 2 most recently, such a fun and diabolically addictive game. Now it's the turn of Fantastic Pets to jump, fly, run and skid onto the Kinect for the Xbox 360. Games Xtreme has been taking a look at this one and it's not bad, not quite up there with Kinectimals in terms of fun and motion tracking accuracy, but it's a good game non-the-less that will appeal to kids and some adults.
Right from the get-go if you're familiar with Kinectimals you're going to be right at home here, except there are numerous animals for you to interact with and turn into pets from the likes of dogs, cats, lizards and more. Now of course you can customise these animals using gems that you collect from interaction with your pet, talent shows, mini-games galore and all sorts of ways. The core of the experience is making that pet of yours stand out from the crowd and thanks to a simple and easy control system; it's really easy to do so.
Each pet has numerous actions they can perform; they can have various parts such as wings, horns, strange demonic eyes. We managed to make a really mean looking fire-breathing demon-dog that had dragon wings and could fly. You're able to interact with this pet in your own surroundings and the bigger your domain, the better the experience will be. The Kinect camera uses the background of your own room and the game superimposes the pet onto that, allowing a closer connection with your chosen pet in game.
It's not perfect but it does add a nice layer of interaction. Rather like Kinectimals, the game also tracks your various body motions such as tapping your knees with your hands - as you might expect these tricks come in a variety and not all of them are explained during the tutorial. Again, it's obvious that Fantastic Pets is targeted more towards kids as well since it has the care and grooming of animals, again...similar to Kinectimals only not as reactive.
What is nice is that you can unlock various parts with these gems by sending off your friendly uncle, who happens to be a famous explorer to various parts of the world. You can get unique custom options including animal skins that can transform the pet into a robot or something else. There's also a pet database that's packed with information on the various pets and tips and so on for pets in general.
Talent shows allow you to compete in various mini-games, such as hurling a ball at block-like buildings letting your pet destroy them (knock them over) and rack up points. Or grooming, or Sit where you must run on the spot and then sit down before your pet slides out of the zone. The better you do at these shows, the more gems you get, the more cool unlocks you manage to grab from the game.
It's simple but effective. My only gripe is that the Kinect motion tracking for the game doesn't seem at all on a par with Kinectimals, or other Kinect games. Ball throwing is especially imprecise and there were times where it was near-impossible to take the ball off the pet.
The graphics are quite nice, the pets are all well detailed and they have some pretty cool custom parts. They have a variety of elements that you can alter and they are all well textured and presented. There are some truly spooky eyes for instance and the demon eyes for the dog made it look like some kind of possessed terrier. The camera imports your pet into your own home, so you get a good image of your environment. Though there are in-game environments where many of the mini-games take place, especially the Talent Shows.
There's a nice use of colour and vibrancy throughout, as well as some very good quality light/shadow in the graphical environments. The pet becomes a silhouette in your environment when it passes behind or through an obstacle, such as an open door in the background. It lacks the graphical punch of some of the other games, but it's no slouch either.
Fantastic Pets has some quirky and fun animations for the various pets, they are all different and there are no problems with those animations either. They are extremely well designed and implemented.
There are some simple physics in the game, they're well programmed.
The pet AI is pretty good; they're fairly autonomous and fun to interact with. They respond well to the player's stimulus and actions.
Not so good, the Kinect tracking is a mixed bag. It works very well for some of the events and not so great for others, such as the ball throwing. There's far less accuracy and hurling the ball in the right direction can be a tad frustrating. Kids will probably completely ignore this problem though and still have a blast.
The game has some fun sounds, the pets all have pretty amusing noises they make and they're great for making kids laugh.
There's not much can be said about the music, it fits, it's fun and that's about it!
The narrator/tutorial voice (a computer AI in the doc's sanctuary) is very well done, clear and precise and the doc himself comes across as friendly and welcoming. The dialogue is well written, not dry and it's fun again, for kids.
Many of the games can be played locally with a friend, sharing the fun. Smashing Pinatas is a good example and you can co-operate to finish those kinds of mini-games together.
Is it Fantastic?
It's a good fun game for kids, it's a really good workout too since many of those mini-games involve rapid motion and especially running on the spot. It has a few Kinect tracking issues but overall it's a good purchase for someone who wants a custom pet and not just a particular kind of big cat cub ala Kinectimals.