Written by  :  Guy Chapman (2001)
Written on  :  Nov 23, 2006
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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An Endearingly Clever Pet Simulator.

The Good

Nintendogs does a remarkable job at being a pet simulator. The AI is nothing short of amazing as the dog behaves exactly as a real puppy would, complete with the "cute" factor puppies have well in hand. There's something very satisfying seeing the puppy smile as you use the stylus to "pet" the dog.

The innovation of this title is the biggest draw. You can speak to or whistle at the puppy, and it responds to basic commands or even its name. You can play with it, by throwing a ball or frisbee and having to play tug of war to pull the toy out of the dog's mouth. You can blow bubbles for the dog to bark at by actually blowing into the microphone to create bubbles. You can wash the dog, tug on its leash for walks, train it in competitions.... There's a lot of variety to what you can do with your pet.

Graphically, it's very simple, but the dogs are cute and very well animated. Someone spent a lot of time studying dogs for this title, as the behaviors are spot on, including those moments when a dog doesn't want to fool with you for the moment. It is very hard not to get attached to the puppy, which in itself is pretty remarkable. To make a clump of polygons truly this likable is a testament to the programmers, and it's fun to find new toys and costumes via gifts to entertain your pet with. The clothing thing sounds weird, but having a dog with a rainbow afro wig or a pirate hat is strangely gratifying.

While you do have to do bathroom duty in the game, you don't have to worry about the dog destroying your home if you are away too long.

Music is non-obtrusive, but the dog yips and growls are very accurate.

The Bad

Walks can get tedious at times. There's a way to speed up the dog, but when it gets stubborn, you'll be knocking it over more than moving along.

The dog's memory seems selective. When I first started training my dog, it knew its name. After a while, it forgot its name, and I had to whistle to get its attention. There are some commands I have never been able to teach it simply because the voice recognition doesn't seem to understand what I'm saying. If I had a thick accent, I'd understand that, but I speak pretty clearly, so I'm not sure why it understand some commands and not others.

Even with four different dog titles, there are still a lot of dogs missing that I would have enjoyed seeing represented.

Finally, as diverse as the dog's behaviors are, you can only do so much with your pet before it gets a little repetitive. There is only so much you can do. Not being a real dog removes some of the joys of the little animals no matter how accurate the game recreates their behaviors.

The Bottom Line

Unless you don't like dogs or have a heart of stone, then Nintendogs will appeal to a pet lover, or even to simply teach a child how to properly care for a dog.

Nintendo did a fantastic job in accurately recreating the fun aspects of a dog, while adding little video game flourishes such as playing with the dog toys and the gift finding aspect. This is one of those titles that is perfectly suited for the hardware features of the Nintendo DS, which is likely why this title has been so popular.

I would hope that Nintendo would continue the series on the Wii to use the features of that system, or even release a sequel/expansion with more dogs and features.

A fun, non-violent game with a playful sense of humor. Recommended to dog lovers, people who want to see how unique a DS title can truly be, or for someone looking for something really different.