At a glance...

Previewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Release Date Screenshots
Matt Bailey Nintendo DS Nintendo Nintendo 1 7th October 2005 Here

GME: Nintendogs preview

This preview is based solely on the code available at Games Market Europe.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that Games Market Europe was not the best showcase for Nintendogs. This "killer-app" has been talked about for a while, has received some endorsing reviews both Stateside and in Japan, and has pushed up DS sales in those regions. So why did I find the game boring and unenjoyable?

Well, I would like to point out that I did try. Dave and myself visited the units on more than one occasion, but continually came away unimpressed. Ultimately it was probably the fact that the version on display was limited and taking place on machines that weren't in the best of conditions that gave the negative feedback. On offer were a choice of a few dogs and some toys which gave us the opportunity to experiment with the touch screen. Controlling items and interacting with dogs via the stylus worked well, but this was only a showroom, and the ability to actually own, name, and interact with your own dogs wasn't present.

Does this mean the preview is worthless? Hopefully not. While we haven't experienced ownership and long-term caring for a dog in Nintendogs, we can raise questions about just how enjoyable the experience is. After all, if we couldn't play it for more than 5 minutes at a time, it does raise questions over whether this is a fun game or time-consuming simulator.

So just how much game is there? Well, there are events to take your pet to, but these aren't what Nintendogs is all about. It is essentially a virtual pet simulator, where the focus is on messing around with a dog through a variety of toys and other collectables, as well as teaching abilities such as sitting and taking the dog for a walk. Fun? That depends. I'm not a particular fan of pets in general, so an extension into the virtual world certainly isn't for me - though dog lovers may love the ability to control a puppy that never grows up, and never causes any more mess than a stylus can clean up.

The concept of a virtual pet certainly isn't new, though. Catz and Dogz were PC titles in the 1990s that are based on the same concepts of pet ownership, toys, and caring for a virtual creature as Nintendogs. And of course, I'm sure most people remember the Tamagotchi. However, while Nintendogs is essentially focused on the same long-term time-consuming commitment in order to keep your dog happy, it doesn't have to be if you don't want it to. The game uses the Nintendo DS' internal clock to know just how long you've left your dog unattended, and though this will result in he or she becoming miserable and unresponsive, a bit of TLC (such as some petting or a ball game) over a few minutes should help restore them. Though not encouraged, this means neglect doesn't mean a dead pet, thus avoiding some of the longer-term monotony that comes from having to constantly monitor your pet for months.

Nintendogs not only takes advantage of the DS' touch screen, it is also one of the first titles to take advantage of the microphone. After name your pet, you can then call to it using the name you provided. Obviously, some names are more easily recognised than others, so avoid giving your dog something that's hard to say out loud (and also avoid something you wouldn't want to say in public!). So, a game that shows the features of the Nintendo DS and appeals to non-gamers. A perfect example for the handheld? Possibly. Though more time, a full version, and a reviewer who actually likes dogs is needed to really tell you how good the game is.

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