Review by SuperSmashBro13
"Unfortunately, Nintendogs is probably one of the most rushed games I've ever played."
It takes a lot for me to view a game as a failure. I usually overlook flaws and accept the game's good qualities, because normally, the good qualities outweigh the negative elements. In my opinion, very rarely does any game deserve a rating lower than 6/10. On GameFAQs, 6 is "Game is okay, but there are many better." 4, on the other hand, is "Game is unremarkable and flawed." This is the very first time I have rated any game lower than 6, meaning it's a huge step in the wrong direction. Let's start with the usual rundown (minus some categories due to no plot and stuff).
GRAPHICS: 9/10. There isn't really anything wrong with the graphics. For the most part, the graphics are nice for the DS. Lakes sparkle, carpet is detailed, and you can almost count the individual hairs on a dog. Dogs also come in three different colors, which means you can pick and choose your favorite color. This was a very interesting idea which I appreciate. The dogs' eyes seem a bit huge and almost completely black, which makes them a bit, uh, creepy, unfortunately. Also, when going for walks, the background suddenly changes to match the area; for instance, walking near a lake changes the background to a sparkling lake with benches, and walking near some common houses puts ordinary homes in the background. The backgrounds themselves look nice, but it's just a little odd when you're enjoying the view of a lake and suddenly you're looking at houses.
SOUND AND MUSIC: 6/10. The sound and music is usually either alright or bad. Dogs have mostly unique barks, and it's kind of interesting learning each bark. The sound itself is actually pretty good. You've got dingle balls, squeaky mushrooms, frisbees clattering on wooden floors, the sound of paws on carpet, and a whole bunch of other sound effects which are actually pretty good. My beef is the music. The music is either annoying or nonexistent. When you're at your house, no music plays at all (although you can put on some records you might find on a walk, though there aren't many of these). The music during walks I found rather annoying. It sounds like a haughty poodle walking through France; it even has accordions playing in the background! It's hard to explain otherwise, but it's not only mediocre but annoying. You learn to deal with it, though, as walking is one of the only things you can do in the game. The music during contests is alright, as is your music when shopping. And, in fact, that's about the only music you hear during the game. You can put on about six records which have different music to play at your house, but that's about the extent of it. You have a record you can record things on with your DS's microphone, but that's seriously a flawed idea, as you can only record things that are six seconds long. Try recording anything of use that's six seconds long. You probably can't. So the sound effects are pretty good, but the music's pretty bad, to sum it up.
GAMEPLAY: 4/10. As I said in the title, Nintendogs is probably the most rushed game I have ever played. When I first wrote this review, I hadn't played the game for very long, and I truly believed Nintendogs to be a great game. After all, when you're getting used to how things are for the first week, everything still seems new. After awhile, a game should still be throwing new things at you. When they run out, it gets old. I definitely won't say it gets old within the first five minutes like some other people do, because it doesn't. But the fun only lasts a couple weeks tops, and once you understand that you can only do about five things and you don't expect anything else, it stops.
This is going to seem a little hard to believe, but perhaps the prime reason Nintendogs isn't that good of a game is that it has a very low level of interactivity. You may think, "Everything you do in Nintendogs revolves on interactivity! What the heck could you mean!?!" To put it simply, there isn't ENOUGH interaction in what you do, and there isn't much to do. To pet your dog, you rub a piece of glass, and there's almost no benefit from doing so. Playing with your dogs also gets boring fast. You throw something and your dog brings it back to you. I know this is how playing with dogs in real life is, but it's much more fun in real life because anything can happen. The dog can lose track of the ball and go looking around for it like the goof it is. The ball can get stuck on a shelf. The dog could even not pay attention to where it's going and ram into a wall. In Nintendogs, the dog simply gets the ball and returns it to you. And it's not just you who gets bored of it quick; your DOG actually gets bored within the first few throws, too. So it's not like you could keep doing it anyway. Toys are pretty generic, and almost all revolve around throwing. The bone must be thrown. The ball must be thrown. The rubber mushroom which squeaks must be thrown. There's very little difference between them.
The point of the game is to buy a puppy from a virtual dog kennel and keep it. I was about to say "raise it," but there's no actual raising, just keeping. You feed it and water it (and by the way, it eats about once every hour or so if you want to feed it the moment it gets hungry) in order to keep it alive, and there's also some showering in case your dog gets dirty. That's all that's necessary to keep it alive. Aside from throwing toys, you can also take it for walks, enter it into contests, teach it commands, and pet it. That's it. I'm serious. Each one is seriously flawed and not much fun to do at all.
Walks are about as boring as they get. Basically, you stare at your dog until you complete a path you drew beforehand and wind up back at your house. Your dog's stamina increases with each walk until it can finally walk great distances. You can't even change the camera to look around, enter into any other houses, or actually interact with other people. You do meet up with people walking their dogs occasionally, and they give you some advice while your dogs either stare at each other, snuggle up to each other, or fight. While walking, your dog can find items which you can sell for precious small amounts of money or keep if they're important. Question marks are either items or dogs. Items are fun to come across, but meeting other dogs is virtually pointless and boring. You can't alter the path you're going on while walking, so you're just staring at your dog until you make it back to the house.
The only way you can get money (besides selling items) is by placing in contests. There are only three contests. One is disc throwing, where your dog catches frisbees within a certain time limit and tries to get as many points as possible. The farther you throw the disc, the more points you get. In order to make your dog faster and better at catching discs, you must train them with frisbees at parks when you stop on your walk. Your dog will stink at first and get better eventually, but after you reach a certain level of the competition (the more contests in a category you win, the higher up you go until you get to Championship, and the higher the prize money and the higher the winning standards), it becomes next to impossible to win. There's no way your dog can run fast enough, and there's no way you can get the required number of points to even place. Agility trials are even worse. You guide your dog through a series of obstacles using the Touch Screen. In order to enter an Agility trial, you must train at a gym. Agility trials are frustrating and terrible because your dog doesn't do what you want it do. Point it to go through a tunnel, and your dog will go around it instead. Try to make it jump over a bar, and it'll bump into it instead. It's practically impossible to acquire the skill (and perhaps luck) necessary to complete even the first few Agility trials. Obedience trials are both the easiest and hardest ones. That doesn't make much sense, does it? It all depends on how your dog feels. I'll explain more about that in a second. Your goal is to perform all of the commands required within a time limit without screwing up. You're scored for everything afterwards. (For some strange reason, it seems like the judge on the right ALWAYS gives you the lowest score, which I don't get.) In all contests, there are three dogs who have placed first, second, and third, and it's your job to do better. You'll get money depending on how you placed. In contests, there is much restarting of your DS as the consequences are high if you don't score as high as you wanted or even if you don't place at all. (More on that later.)
Teaching your dog commands is a long and tedious process. Like in real life, you get your dog to do something repeatedly. When a light bulb appears in the corner, you touch it, then say something--anything, really--into the microphone. Repeat until your dog officially learns the command. It's not so bad, except for a few negative factors. First of all, it's practically impossible to tell what exactly your dog is doing. I spent a long time thinking I was teaching my dog to lay down when I was actually teaching her to play dead. (At least, I THINK she was playing dead.) There really isn't much to tell you what the command is. Secondly, getting your dog to learn commands not listed in your in-game guidebooks is terrible. Teaching it to jump (which IS listed, but hear me for a second) was heck to do. It's very hard to get your dog to jump, and after fifteen minutes of poking and prodding, when your dog finally does jump, you have to hit the light bulb before it disappears and then say your command into the microphone. An hour and a half later, your dog will have learned that command after you nearly break your DS in frustration. In other words, it's hard trying to get your dog to do something repeatedly in order to teach it something. Thirdly--and most importantly--your dog confuses commands like crazy. This is what I meant before when I said that obedience trials depend on how your dog feels. Yesterday, your dog knew all its commands perfectly. Today, your dog confuses one command with another and you totally screw up the Obedience Trial you thought you were so ready for. And it isn't just confusing commands like "Sit" with "Shake"; they confuse things like "Sit" with "Roll Over." How in the world do you get roll over from sit!?! I still don't understand that! You almost have to list your dog's commands in an alien language to get any of them to work.
The first half of why Nintendogs is a pretty bad game is because of the low level of any real interaction. The second half is that rules and limits are bouncing off of everything. EVERYTHING. Your dog can only learn three commands a day, even if you delete some. You can only walk your dog every thirty minutes. You can only enter your dog in three contests a day (which is why you'll be restarting your DS so often: so that if you screw up, it doesn't count). You can only have three dogs in your house at a time, and any others must stay in a hotel of sorts. (And to take it further, out of about sixteen or so dogs you can unlock, you can only have about seven.) Lucky number three, huh? Or rather, UNlucky.
One redeeming factor is the Trainer Points. By walking your dog, entering it contests, yada yada yada, you can earn Trainer Points. Earn a certain number, and you'll unlock another dog to buy from the kennel or a new house design. (Bear in mind that your house consists of one basic room with not much to look at, though.) Unlocking stuff has always been fun, and Nintendogs doesn't disappoint in that area. (Of course, what you have to go through to GET the points....)
CONTROL EASE: 7/10. It's alright. Like I said, Agility trials are almost impossible to get through since your dog never does anything you want. Teaching your dog commands, unfortunately, is a bit difficult in this area because you may accidentally make it get up and beg instead of lying down. Throwing things is real easy. Everything (save for changing the camera angle in your house) is done with the Touch Screen, so you'll be selecting options and decisions by touch as well, which works nicely.
TOTAL SCORE: 26/40. No plot, no replay value (since you can't beat the game), and no game length, which lowers the maximum score to a 40. 26 out of 40 is pretty bad. The only thing that really saved it point-wise here was the graphics. Lower the graphics score, and the total score would be very low.
FLAWS: Well, let's sum it all up.
- WAY too many limits to play freely and comfortably
- Not enough to do
- Little real interaction
- Puppies have no uniqueness or individuality at all, despite what the game tells you
- Toys are pretty much the same
- Every dog--Lab, pug, miniature pinscher, whatever--is the same except in bark and appearance
CONCLUSION: I don't get mediocre games. I do my research and I make sure that when I get a game, I'm going to enjoy it. Nintendogs is one of the few games where I miscalculated. I was expecting MUCH more interaction. For instance, an actual house. Wandering around from room to room. Keeping your dog out of the trash. Making friends with people are town. More contests. Customizing your house's appearance (besides just basically changing the floor design). Something more than staring at a puppy with virtually no life or emotion at all. If you were expecting an actual house, dream on. It's just one wide, flat room. The game told me each puppy was unique, but I found that they were all the same. Basically, it comes down to whether they fight or not. None of my dogs did. And once you take care of the fighting problem, you have an army of robotic dogs at your disposal.
I think Nintendo got hyped up on the idea of taking care of dogs and just kind of left it there. They probably thought that because it had cute widdle puppies in it, that alone would make it enjoyable. If you're female, likely you'd enjoy this game better, but I'm not female, so cute widdle puppies don't have much of an effect on me. They'd better do something besides stare at me, because otherwise I'm not sure if I want to dash upstairs every so often, keep my dogs alive, and then leave them because they offer me no enjoyment at all.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Originally Posted: 12/04/08, Updated 05/21/09
Game Release: Nintendogs: Lab & Friends (US, 08/22/05)
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