Nintendo were truly able to tap into the virgin resource of the casual gamers last generation with the Wii and DS. Part of the DS’ charm to casual audiences was the presence of one of its major launch titles, Nintendogs. Fast forward a few years and we have Nintendogs + Cats set to aid the launch of the DS’ successor. With relaxing gameplay and some nice visuals Nintendogs isn’t a bad title, but its lack of content and slow pace is likely to put off most adult gamers.
You begin by selecting your puppy of choice. The different breeds and specific dogs themselves all follow different AI patterns based on their inherent nature, so it doesn’t feel too much like the same dog but re-skinned over and over. As the title suggests you can also get a cat later on when you’ve saved up enough money. It’s definitely nice to see some cute little kitties getting a look in, as they are often poorly represented in other pet sims. The problem with the cats is that they don’t really do all that much. I guess it would be weird if they could do all the stuff that dogs do considering the laziness of their real life counterparts, but they’re just boring in the game and seem like a dodgy after thought.
Whatever dog you wind up going for, it’s bound to be unbearably cute. Nintendogs is one of those family orientated titles that really goes for the jugular when it comes to all things cuddly and adorable. This is, in part, well executed by the game’s visual design. The animations of the dogs are all fairly life-like and the fur is well rendered to keep the suspension of disbelief going. The soundtrack too is full of the kind of pleasant melodies Nintendo are known for, and these add to the game’s relaxing nature. The issue I have with the game’s presentation is the limited 3D effects. I know not all games need to go overboard with the depth of field but, as its DS predecessors really showed off everything that the original DS was capable of, I expected Nintendogs + Cats to better demonstrate the 3DS’ hallmark feature. The stereoscopic effects look good on walks and in open spaces at competitions, but in the shops and home areas they just add very little to the visuals. A missed opportunity of sorts.
The game, if you haven’t guessed already, sees you looking after your virtual furry friend and tending to its daily needs. You have to ensure they’re well fed and watered and you get the chance to teach them new tricks and train them up for competitions. Cash from competitions can then be used to purchase new accessories or supplies for your mini hound.
Interacting with your pet is done through a combination of touch screen controls and microphone commands. The whole affair is usually fairly smooth on the touch screen front with simple and memorable commands, but the voice detection is frustrating. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but verbally calling out tricks for my dog became a chore, making the obedience competitions a waste of my time. The obedience contests also require you to project your dog onto an AR card in order for you to give him the assigned commands, but this seemed like a needless gesture. I like the AR cards and all, but having to keep them close at hand is a pain.
Generally speaking, teaching your dog how to do new tricks is satisfying, in spite of voice recognition complaints. The problem comes in daily caps placed on certain actions. Once you’ve taught your dog three tricks, you have to wait until the next day before he can learn anything else. Real time days I mean, no quick moving game-clock sort of arrangement. The same thing applies to the competitions. I found the Frisbee catching and lure chasing contests more exciting than most of the other content in Nintendogs, but I was only allowed to enter my pooch into each contest twice each day. Considering each activity takes up the best part of two or three minutes, this means the enjoyment you’ll get out of the game each day is inexcusably crippled.
I understand that Nintendo have capped certain activities to keep the game relaxed and slow paced, and they’ve certainly succeeded at doing this. Nintendogs is a great game to help calm you down if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and its calm atmosphere will help it appeal to a wider audience. Yet, these same aspects will be annoying to those who are used to gaming. The lack of clearly defined goals, repetitive grooming actions and daily caps will serve to infuriate those who like to feel a sense of achievement from their games.
Nintendogs + Cats is a fairly intuitive and well realised pet simulator, but as a full priced title it is somewhat lacking. The cute aesthetic and cuddly animals will appeal to kids, families and other groups usually not targeted by video games. If you’re a more regular gamer, you’ll find that this just isn’t enough to cut the mustard. Though it will take some hours to train your dog up to the top ranked competitions, the tasks required for this are exceptionally repetitive and in their abundance belie the lack of varied content in the game. Nintendogs has a valid place for the casual audience, but I just couldn’t settle in to its slow pace and lack of real challenge and gameplay.
This game was reviewed on the 3DS.
It's very cute, Nice to see some cats getting involved, Extremely relaxing, Can be satisfying teaching your dog new tricks, Decent visuals, Dog breeds have different AI, Pleasant soundtrack
Not much content, The amount you can do each day is capped, Very repetitive, 3D effects don't add much, Not worth the asking price
A cute and cuddly pet simulator that will appeal to kids and the casual audience. Sadly, its lack of content and direction will put off a lot of gamers