Fantastic Pets Hands-On

We got to play with the cats, dogs, lizards, and ponies in THQ's upcoming pet sim.


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Given the commercial and critical success of Kinectimals, it's no surprise to see other pet games arriving for the Kinect. The first is Fantastic Pets, from British development studio Blitz Games and publisher THQ. Unlike Kinectimals, which saw you adopting wild cats, Fantastic Pets offers you a variety of more domesticated animals--cats, dogs, lizards, and ponies, although as the name suggests, they all have fantastical variations. We were lucky enough to go hands-on with the game before it's due to arrive in April.

Pets don't come more fantastical than a pink unicorn.
Pets don't come more fantastical than a pink unicorn.

You're introduced to Fantastic Pets by Dr Menagerie, an expert on the animals that are available in the game. Dr Menagerie is voiced by comedian and impressionist Alistair McGowan, and he enthusiastically introduces you to the four animals that you can take under your care. Once you've chosen your animal, it joins you onscreen via the Kinect and will mimic your actions--rolling over, freezing on the spot, or coming up to the screen.

There are lots of activities to keep you interested in Fantastic Pets. It's part of the daily routine to feed your pet--our cat loved fish, but was less excited by onions and fire fruit, which made the poor thing breathe fire after eating it. We also got to play games, including one where we had to smash a cardboard city. The idea is to throw the ball into the fragile buildings, but you can earn bonus points as your pet goes to collect the ball and knocks down even more. Another game we played was a race, where we had to jog on the spot to make the pet run around the course, followed by a jump at the end to propel our pet into the air and win bonus points.

There will be plenty of games to play with your pet on the way to winning the talent show.
There will be plenty of games to play with your pet on the way to winning the talent show.

The driving force of the game will be the talent show--there will be one contest per day against other pets, with the biggest show happening every Saturday. Your progress will also be tracked via trophies, which will collect in your trophy cabinet every time you do something special. As you progress, you can send Dr Menagerie out to different locations to research new ways to customise your pet, and he'll reply to you with an e-mail from each location updating you on your progress. For example, we got to kit out a Tron Dog, a puppy who was adorned with fur that looked like one of the light suits from Disney's recent movie, and an Egyptian Cat, who had pointy ears and a pharaoh-like appearance. We also saw how you can add wings to the lizard that allow him to fly, and a variation on the pony that turns it into a unicorn. Each physical customisation makes your pet cuter or fiercer, which is then reflected in its personality.

Developer Blitz has confirmed that it's looking into a prerelease demo for Fantastic Pets, as well as postrelease content, including new activities and costumes for your pets. Keep an eye on GameSpot for a full review when the game is released.

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