Review by scarlet_puppy

"These puppies are so cute!"

Ever since I was a little boy, I have always wanted a dog really badly, but my mum never let me have one. So when this game came out, it was like a dream come true. I could finally own my own personal dog and look after it and play with it and all sorts of things. Was it as good as I thought it would be? Read on to find out.

Story: NA/10
Basically, you buy a dog (or more if you want) and then look after it. Very simple, but games like this don't need a great storyline.

Graphics: 8/10
The dogs in this game look very realistic. The fur actually looks like fur, all of the dogs have a large amount of polygons and their movement is exactly like that of a real dogs. Not to mention that all of them are unbelievably cute. To put it into perspective, think of a really cute puppy. Now make it five times cuter, and you have an idea of what the dogs in this game are like.

The objects in this game are pretty good, too, although they clearly don't have the same level of detail. Unfortunately, as a result of the brilliantly rendered puppies, they had to trim some fat from the backgrounds, which look bland and uninspired throughout the game. But most of the time you will be too busy focusing on the dogs to care about the backgrounds.

Sound: 8/10
The music in this game is mostly forgettable; not bad, but not very good either. There is a tune playing when you go to the shops or take the dog for a walk, but no music plays when you are at your house. If it feels too quiet, you can play some records (there are five in total), which play some decent but not fantastic music.

The various barks and growls that the dogs make are very realistic, sounding exactly like they would in real life, and vary depending on the dog that you have. The sound effects are good too, but not as much so as the voices of the dogs.

Gameplay: 9/10
As you could probably have guessed, basically what you have to do in this game is look after dogs. But that description doesn't even scratch the surface of the game.

To start with, you are taken to the kennel to pick one of several breeds of dogs. The dogs that you can get include toy poodles, Labradors and Dalmatians. Initially the selection is a bit limited, but as you progress through the game, you unlock new breeds of dogs, and eventually the amount that you can choose from becomes very extensive. You can keep up to three dogs in your house at one time, and you can keep up to five in the dog hotel, where you can drop them off for whatever reason.

Once you have chosen your dog and gone home, you must now decide what to call it, and then repeat its name several times using the microphone in the console. Once you have done that, the rest of the game involves taking care of your dog and doing all of the things that you would do with a dog in real life.

Although many people say that the amount of things you can do is somewhat limited, in actuality you can do more or less anything that you would do with an ordinary dog. You must give your dog food and water, wash it from time to time, groom it and give it the occasional dog treat.

As well as all of those things, you can also take your dog for walks. Whereas the things above are unsurprisingly a bit boring, taking your dog for a walk is a different story. You decide what route you want to go along, and then you walk along that route. Along the way you may find spaces with question marks on them. This means that there is either another dog there, or a present. Presents can be a wide range of things, including collars, frisbees, dolls and records. Some of these can be put on your puppy to make it look more distinct, or they can be sold for some extra cash. If you meet another dog, another dog owner will briefly chat with you, and then the two dogs will interact. They may either be friendly, or they will fight each other, again a lot like real dogs.

I have not yet mentioned the A.I. of the dogs. As well as looking and sounding realistic, the puppies also behave realistically. They will play with toys if they are energetic, or fall asleep if they are tired. The dogs will fight with each other and do many other things you would expect a dog to do. Fortunately, it cannot bite you or leave a ‘present' for you on your bed. You can also teach your dog tricks, such as ‘sit', ‘roll over' and ‘beg'. This is done cleverly by the use of the microphone in the DS. You must get it to do the trick, and then you say the command several times. In my opinion, it is a good use of the technology that is there.

You can also enter your puppies into competitions. There are three competitions: the disc competition, the agility trial and the obedience trial. In the disc competition, you throw a disc, and then your puppy must catch it in order to get points. The farther you throw it, the more points the catch is worth. The puppy that gets the most points in one minute is the winner. In the agility trial, your puppy must perform a series of tasks such as jumping over hurdles and going through tunnels as quickly as possible. In the obedience trial, you must get your dog to perform several tricks at the right times. If you win these trials, you get money, which you can use for supplies, redecorating your house, or even buying a new dog.

There is also a mode called ‘Bark Mode'. In this mode, you can meet another person's dog from another cartridge (if there is another person with the game nearby) and exchange gifts. It's a little limited, but it's better than nothing.

This game isn't flawless, however. You may have noticed that I have been consistently using the word ‘puppy' to be synonymous with the word ‘dog'. That is because these dogs will never ever age. They will stay at a young age forever, which is a shame, because it would be cool to watch your cute little puppy turn into a mature adult dog. Similarity, you cannot get two dogs to mate with each other, which again is a real pity. Another thing, you know how I mentioned earlier that the dogs in this game are extremely cute? Well, they are almost overbearingly so. It almost pains you to turn off the console for the day with those puppy eyes looking at you. I know this sounds really pathetic of me, but if you play the game, you will see what I mean.

In conclusion, this is definitely one of the best pet simulators out there. This game is almost as good as having a real dog, and it's a lot cheaper too, not to mention that you don't have to put in anywhere near as much effort.

Replay Value: 10/10
Since these puppies never age, they also never die, which means that this game essentially never ends at all, meaning you can play as long as you want. Of course, this depends on your attention span, because some may be bored after a couple of months, but other people could likely make this last for years.

Almost as good as a real dog…
…and a lot cheaper.
Requires much less effort than a real dog.
Lots of breeds to choose from.
Dogs look brilliant.
Realistic barks and growls.
Dogs behave like real dogs.
Lots of things to do.
Bark mode is quite cool.
Fun competitions.
Taking the dog for walks.
Lots of items to collect.
Lasts as long as you want it to.
Puppies are really adorable…

… perhaps possessively so.
Puppies cannot age or mate.
Bland backgrounds.
Somewhat forgettable music.

Buy, rent or avoid: This is the type of game where renting it would be pointless. If you already have a dog, chances are you already have your hands full, although it may be worth getting if you want another dog but can't afford a real one. If you do not have a dog, this game is a must-have without a doubt.

I think that's one of my longest reviews ever. Well, goodbye for now, and I hope you enjoyed reading.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/07/08

Game Release: Nintendogs: Labrador & Friends (EU, 10/07/05)

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