By Ryan Scott | 06-17-2012 | 8:30PM
Despite having its own Windows Phone platform, it seems that Microsoft isn't opposed to bringing its software library to competing devices. Who knows how long that goodwill might last... but for the moment, we can enjoy a slimmed-down version of Microsoft and Frontier Developments' Kinect-powered digital pet simulator, Kinectimals.
Back when Microsoft first unveiled Kinectimals, people like me rolled their eyes at it, mockingly referring to it as "Nintencats," riffing on Nintendo's popular handheld dog sim Nintendogs. As it turns out, games liked this are extraordinarily popular for a reason: They're actually kinda fun. Not as much fun as owning a living, breathing pet, of course -- but a passable surrogate, at least for a little while.
You wouldn't exactly be looking to own any of the critters offered up in Kinectimals anyway, though; they're all cub versions of giant, predatory jungle cats. Lion, tiger, cheetah, panther, and leopards (Thundercats, ho!) compose the initial selection, with more species unlocked as you progress further in your training-and-cuddling regimen. You can pet your chosen cat as often as you like; it purrs as you swipe your finger across desirable regions (under the chin, across the side, and on the tummy), and a bright trail accompanies your strokes to signify that you're doing it right.
Climbing up the tiger-training ladder is a matter of conquering a growing number of challenges, including everything from playing catch, to jumping rope, to teaching your feline friend basic commands such as sit, jump, and roll over. You accomplish this via simple hand motions on the touch screen, and it tends to work pretty well overall. Some of the more difficult challenges (such as the damnable advanced rope-jumping course) demand a much higher degree of precision... but that's why they're called "difficult," after all.
Beyond that, you've got to tend to your kitty's hygiene; regular trips to the shop to buy food, water, and cleaning supplies (with the coins earned from those challenges, of course) are a must. Your cat lets you know when it's hungry or thirsty, lugging a giant bowl for you to fill with food or water. The animal will also get downright filthy -- I had a white jaguar that went from white to completely mud-brown -- which you can remedy with a quick sponge bath (with pretty much the same motions that you use to pet the cat). And, for added variety, you periodically unlock additional locales... so if you get sick of the default jungle screen, you can move to, say, the beach.
Kinectimals isn't the kind of game that will keep you enthralled forever -- you can only interact with the cats in so many different ways -- but it lends itself to quick sessions on mobile platforms much better than extended sittings on an Xbox 360. It's a fun surrogate pet (for a while), kids will enjoy it, and your lady (if she's anything like mine) will love it.