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2 Gamers Review one Game

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Nintendogs - Review


PickyPants - Nintendogs - Review - DS

First of all, let's just say if you were going to buy this game, you would have already done so without reading a review. Every so often a game like this comes along and it's either the kind of thing you were waiting for, or something you would never buy in a million years.

I am one of the first person types.

When I heard of a dog simulator, I must admit I was really, really excited. I have always been a fan of Nintendo, and I knew if they brought a complex AI simulator to market it wouldn't simply be a rehash of the PC screensaver Dogz.

That having been said, lets get to my review.

Nintendogs is a dog simulator that comes in several different varieties. Chihuahua, Dachshund, and Labrador. The three versions give you different dogs to select from initially, but as all 18 breeds are unlockable in each version, so it doesn't really matter which version you choose, unless you are jonsing for a particular breed.

That brings up my first problem with the game. The three versions are essentially the same game. I think that's a little cheap of Nintendo. In this videogame era of Pokemon, it seems that superficial differences between cartridges, (red/blue, leaf/water, gay/straight) sells more units, while having nearly no difference between them. I simply disagree with that kind of marketing. I feel like the corporations are trying to bamboozle kids into wanting more and delivering less.

But I digress.

In addition to the initial breeds, there are 8 uber-secret unlockables in each game. Some of which are pretty f'ing cool. (One, for example, is a Mario Kart that you can drive around and terrorize your puppies with) The only way to get all of those is to engage in "bark mode" and try to get some kids from the mall to trade away their rarest possessions. That reminds me of trading a strip mine for a mox sapphire in the heyday of Magic, The Gathering, but that's a different story all together. More on bark mode later.

So the game starts with you having a crappy apartment, no friends, and 700 bucks in the bank. Much like I was after college. To combat the lonely void of unemployment and no television, you decide to buy a dog. You go to your local Kennel, and choose from a variety of different puppies. Once one is selected you take it home, teach it its name and its first trick (through the horribly dodgy DS microphone) and presto! You are ready to enjoy life with your dog.

When I say enjoy life with your dog, I really mean your life. This game does not go away when you turn it off. Your dog will get hungry, dirty, and need to poop while you're not even playing it. That is both incredibly cool, and worrisome. What happens if my DS runs out of juice when I am on a 5-day road trip? Will my dog die? Will I come home to a little dachshund skeleton waiting for me? Ugh… It's too eerie to contemplate, but this is a game that requires more time out of its user that any normal game. This is a really cool gameplay tool, as constantly having to come back to feed your dog will invariably bring you closer to it. You will actually feel guilty while playing another game on the DS knowing your puppy needs to take a piss.

Once you undertake the responsibility, you can embark on a variety of cleverly disguised mini-games such as "Wash the dog," "Brush the dog," "Walk the dog," "Practice Frisbee with the dog," "Teach the dog tricks," "Play music for the Dog," and many more. These mini-games seem connected by the second screen's involvement. The second screen functions as a dog walking minimap, the doggy vital sign display, the conversation window (for talking with other dog owners whilst walking) the turn order for the Agility Trial and more. The whole game's appearance and functionality is very streamlined and appears very well thought out.

After a while your puppy will become a well oiled machine of obedience and Frisbee catching. (Ridiculous though it may seem to have a miniature dachshund catching Frisbees) You enter your dog into various competitions, with multiple challenge levels and win big, big money. Nothing is so rewarding than watching your puppy swinging around a giant trophy with Nintendo trademarked confetti falling all around it.

With all these options, and the inclusion of your dog "finding stuff" while walking for you to play with, it would seem that there is an endless amount of stuff to do and see.

Not quite. There is a downside to this game.

I have a problem with the "personality" of the dogs. They do have different personalities (The box says so!) but the problem is they don't seem to differ all that much. Some will ignore you for a while before warming up, some will have boundless energy, and some will fight and bark more. Other than that, no difference. Who would have thought that a golden retriever puppy would behave exactly as a Chihuahua puppy? Its almost as if the textures covering the dog model were the only main difference. They look different, they act pretty much the same. Which is not to say that it's terrible; a bunch of puppies tripping over themselves fighting for a toy bone is awesome to witness. I just wish they put some more time into the development of the personality AI.

The DS microphone sucks. Totally sucks. You can tell when it replays your voice back to you to indicate what command you are trying to teach your dog. You say "Sit" and the game plays back "Iiitsshh." No wonder your dog looks so confused. Thankfully, agility and Frisbee catching training don't need the microphone at all, and are equally, if not more enjoyable than the obedience training. It is worth mentioning that if you do get particularly good at obedience training, your dog can do some pretty amazing stuff. There are some pretty entertaining movies for download of stuff owners have taught their dogs. Just do an online search.

Bark mode is Nintendogs' multiplayer mode. It is the lamest multiplayer mode ever created. Instead of syncing up, you and your friend's DS' display you and your friend's dogs on each other's screens. So you each have an individual experience. Its like a goddamn instanced zone that has no bearing on your dog's personality or mood.

Unfortunately, much like The Sims, Nintendogs also suffers in the late game. There doesn't seem to be that much to do after initially getting inundated with so many options. For example, you might see the "Home Decorating" tab. Being curious you click on it and see that there are 3 upgraded spaces you can move into for a price. These new "upgrades" are nothing more than different textures for the background of your house. No difference in quality or functionality. That's a little disappointing. Also half the crap your dog brings you on a walk is totally worthless. When you get a good toy or accessory it's excellent, but a lot of what your dog brings you are like trophies from Super Smash Bros. Melee, or the figures from The Wind Waker that you collect by photographing the whole fucking world. God, I am still annoyed at that.

Also, like The Sims, if you are a number oriented gamer, you could be annoyed beyond all reason at the lack of numeric, or even intellectual support for any of the actions you may perform. There is an attribute referred to as "Trainer Points" which dictate what breeds you have access to, what is sold in the stores, and how friendly the neighborhood responds to you. This number seems to go up and down for no reason whatsoever. And when it does go up or down, there is no message telling you so, so you can't figure out what actions to avoid or continue.

You might want to know exactly what the difference is between dry food and wet food. (the latter being more expensive) There is no information backing that up. While walking the dog, does running the dog help with agility and stamina? Beats the crap out of me. Brushing and washing the dogs affect the same attribute, (cleanliness) so do those abilities stack? Are they redundant? Does a ribbon that's explanation reads "This will make your puppy stand out" have more bearing on the judges than the ribbon that reads "This will make your puppy look fantastic!" A min-max gamer could have a field day with the lack of numeric support in this game. Its reminiscent of Everquest where you know you're getting experience, but you don't know how much. The only information you do get is from the other dog owners in the neighborhood. They will say things such as "Your dog likes it when you whistle." Does that mean my dog will respond to a whistle, or a whistle will make my dog "feel better?" Who knows!

Another drawback is money. What do you do with it? Other than saving up a shitload of money for a new jpeg of a condo, you can really only buy more dogs, to a maximum of three, food for the dogs, and the occasional new toy that comes to the second hand store. Other than that, there's really no reason for money. Which is a pity. Perhaps when someone unlocks the mystery about whether the "upgraded" apartments actually do anything, it will be more important to make it. Until then, you'll be sitting on a lot of it. Much like a late-game Final Fantasy VI save.

Now taking all that negativity into account, I have to say, every time I turn on this game and am greeted by my dogs, I can't help but smile. I love those little bastards all slobbering and jumping all over themselves. I wish so deeply the game could be more than the sum of its parts, but watching my dogs bark along to music I play on the in game keyboard, and putting pirate hats on them is just so awesome, it almost makes up for anything negative. Almost.

It is also worth mentioning that this is the first game other than Jawbreaker that my girlfriend has ever picked up and played. She is not a fan of gaming, so that's pretty cool. All in all, if you want a game like this, no one has come even close to the level of detail Nintendo has. But, there is still a lot of room for growth. This game is just a puppy, I am looking forward to a more grown up sequel.

9/12/2005
PickyPants

harshly_von_smokenstein - Nintendogs - Review - DS

First, I must quote Picky. I will never be able to put it better myself.

"First of all, let's just say if you were going to buy this game, you would have already done so without reading a review. Every so often a game like this comes along and it's either the kind of thing you were waiting for, or something you would never buy in a million years."

A million fucking years. One. Million. Goddamn. Years.

When Picky wanted us to review this game, my anus immediately clenched up, forcing poop to rise up my gorge and tickle the back of my teeth.

Swallowing, I eventually agreed. I don't know anything about this game. I am going to admit it. From the moment I turned it on, to the moment I turned it off (approximately 25 seconds later) I wanted to punch a fucking puppy.

If I want one, I'll buy one. Period.

I ended up going on a Scholomance Raid in World of Warcraft instead of playing the game.

I once tried playing this game while on the toilet. I figured if I had no other real distractions, perhaps I could finally get to the nitty-gritty and work my way into the game long enough to explain something about it.

I ended up shutting of my DS within moments and decided to sit, shit, and pretend I was a dragon razing a village.

My name was "Monsoon" and all the land feared me. I could breath fire. Pin point blasts. I targeted the puppies in the village.

I got nothing else for this game.

One fucking million years man.

Harshly_Von_Smokenstein
9/13/2005

12 Comments:

  • wow! who would have thought a game about dogs could be so complicated (what a thorough review)! I too am getting a little bored of the same old presents...and the same comments from the fake dog owners...I want something shocking and exciting to happen...like our dog rescuing someone from a flaming building or something....

    By Blogger Julie, at 11:04 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger edgribbel6376, at 6:29 PM  

  • Saw one of you comment on joystiq. I loved this review. I like the concept of two different people reviewing the same game. If you guys are actually one person, I'd be even more impressed.

    By Anonymous funtographer, at 11:34 PM  

  • Thank the lord Jesus we aren't.

    Thanks for the comment. We intend to step up production of reviews as soon as I am moved into the house I just bought.

    By Blogger PickyPants, at 3:04 PM  

  • What the fuck is that suppose to mean?

    Jerk.

    By Anonymous Harshly Von Smokenstein, at 2:07 AM  

  • I liked the first review but I think some bits were quite offensive i.e. the second review

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:55 AM  

  • Your opinion doesn't count, Anonymous. When you can leave a name, we'll give a shit.

    Unless you are McCanna, trying to be amusingly ambiguous. If so, you failed your saving throw for comedy.

    By Anonymous harshly, at 6:42 PM  

  • Harshly, try actually PLAYING a game for more than a few moments before you review. Who knows, maybe then you won't sound like a brainless jerk.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:15 AM  

  • Hey, Uncle Anon. Can I call you that? Or maybe A-Bomb? That better? Here is a reason why, when I hate a game, I don't provide much detail....

    I. Am. Not. Being. Paid.

    If someone was paying me, I'd actually force myself to play a game and give it an honest to god, Here are 2 Fucking Stars out of 5, I'll just copy and paste shit I've already written before because I have a dead-line...review.

    Until that point, you'll only get in depth shit from me if I like a game. Otherwise I'll make fun of it.

    Have a nice day.

    By Anonymous Harsh, at 10:30 PM  

  • I luved the review but children play nintendogs too and don't need to be reading words like shit. you get it!

    By Anonymous Jessica Simpson, i'ts only a coincidence, at 6:56 AM  

  • just saw a cheat and wanted to post on every website.
    someone said that ur dogs CAN have puppies(of course idk) u have to leave ONLY 2 dogs at home, 1 boy and 1 girl, for 1 week without going on the game a all. after a week, go on and wait 5 hours and ur dog mite have puppies.

    one thing is that this cheat seems REALLY long and idk if it works yet so...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:10 PM  

  • Jessica...you comment on "shit" but not on "choke on horse semen"? LOLOLOLololol.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:38 AM  

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