As the title would suggest, this is the third in what looks to be an ongoing exploration of my new life as a member of the Xbox Nation. You can read Part Two here.
The problem with promising PR/Marketing folks that you’ll review kid-related things for them within a certain timeframe is that there are kids involved. I’d told my daughter a couple of weeks ago that we’d play Kinectimals: Now With Bears together. Immediately upon doing so she entered what we parents of four-year-old hellion redheads call “a phase”, which is a nice way of saying that she had the mood swings of a Gremlin ’round midnight. The Xbox Threat was made early, and adhered to: act up, and no Kinectimals for you. Needless to say, there was plenty of acting up.

This was bad news for the PR person, but good news for me, as I’d picked up a used copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops. Hooray, sloth and killing!

I can hear you hardcore gamers snickering – “Dude, that game’s, like, a year old!” – and I’ll give you that; MW3 looks badass, and it’s on my list, along with Skyrim and Arkham City. But if I ran down to the local Best Buy and picked up all three, that’d set me back about $180. The one thing that all consoles have in common is that the new, hot games are not cheap – and when you have two kids with decidedly different tastes in video games AND you wanna amass a collection of your own, those costs can pile up in a hurry. I knew from the get-go that there would be very few games that I’d want to rush out and buy immediately (Ghost Recon: Future Soldier will likely be one of those, as will the forthcoming Star Trek); instead, I’d rely on Amazon and eBay to find great deals on older games or used copies of newer ones.

So my daughter was kept in the Kinectimals doghouse while I spent entirely too much time killing 60’s era Russians and refighting the siege of Khe Sanh. During this time, the Xbox served an entirely useful and unexpected function: it was a fantastic piece of leverage. The days went by, the fits continued, the Kinectimals remained sheathed in plastic wrapping. There was pleading on her part, steadfastness on mine: “If you want to play Kinectimals, you have to be good.” There followed a three day Good Streak, so the decision was made and the reward granted.

Little kids have it tough in video game homes: most games simply go over the heads of anyone younger than, say, six. Kinectimals has two things going for it: it’s incredibly simple, and it’s very, very cute. Witness:


Say it with me: AWWWWWW. This is one of the bears that the kiddies will encounter. Yes, there are objectives: you can play with objects, climb obstacles, even dig for buried treasure. But if you’re a four-year-old, you don’t care about all that, because you can also “teach” your bear to jump, spin, and hold still while you groom him, feed him, and rub his furry bear ears. Zoe had a blast just playing with the bear; any other gameplay was just gravy. Lucas observed the game with passing interest; he was slightly disappointed to learn that the bears don’t attack you and you don’t get to shoot them.

And so we find ourselves a happy part of the Xbox Nation. I’ve got a few more aspects of the system to explore – going online and getting into a Call of Duty shootout with some random dude in Sheboygan, for starters – but I think I’ve found my comfort zone. I’m not sure I’ll ever think of myself as a Gamer – the weather’s too nice here to warrant playing Madden for hours on end – but I’ll admit to enjoying a few rounds of HALO: ODST (yep, I’m lame, gamers) after the kids are in bed. For families looking to add a console, I’d still recommend it for older kids only if you’re not planning on getting the Kinect; with the Kinect, there are a few good titles for the young ‘uns. For grownups, of course, the Xbox 360 is still the premier gaming system and is likely to remain so until the rumored Xbox 720 hits shelves in 2013 or 2014, depending on which gaming website you want to believe. By then, I hope to have mastered Jonah Lomu Rugby Challenge. Those friggin’ virtual All Blacks are tough.