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August 22, 2005


- Should appeal to just about anyone that likes dogs

- Interacting and training the puppies is a hoot

- Nintendo uses cuteness without actually going overboard

- The puppies move in a lifelike manner



- Playing in public can bring unwanted stares



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Score: 9.0 / 10


There’s an argument to be made that Nintendogs is not a game the same way the Sims is not a game.  There’s no story here, no unexpected plots twists, or harrowing escapes.  It’s just you and your puppy (or puppies) learning and living together.  If there is an overall “purpose” to playing Nintendogs it’s to train your dog to do all those typical tasks of canine higher learning: come, sit, lie down, roll over, and so on.


nintendogs review          nintendogs review


When Nintendogs starts the first time the game prompts you to pick a puppy and give it a name.  The early stages of the game do a good job acclimatizing you to the controls, which are your stylus and your voice.  Combining the two will allow you to issue commands to your pup with only your voice.


The training process is actually quite painless as long as you’re willing to put in the time with your puppy. (Not to worry, you can save your progress.)  Following instructions laid out in the in-game training manuals you use the stylus to pet your dog and/or coax him to do what you want.  When the puppy performs a specific action like sitting an icon appears at the top right of the touchscreen. Touching the icon brings up another icon above the puppy’s head that indicates the puppy is listening.  This is the moment you reinforce the action with a verbal command and plenty of praise.  After repeating this process a few more times your puppy will bark happily and a lightbulb will go on over his head to indicate he will now respond to the command.  Each “trick” is learned sequentially – the preceding trick builds on the original.  It is very neat to have your puppy respond to your voice but getting there does take time.  Plus, it’s not just about teaching your eternal puppy some cute tricks.


Players will also have to ensure the puppy is fed, has water, goes for walks (to increase its stamina), and has a shampoo once in a while.  You know, the basics you’d do with a real puppy.




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Of course there is the usual assortment of accoutrements to go along with the dogs.  Balls, sticks, new collars and even whole new environments.  None of this stuff is free which is why there are competitions to enter.  It’s the only way to bring in money so it’s absolutely essential if you really want to pamper your pooch.


Placing well in a competition is really the result of spending a lot of time with your pup making sure he’s psychologically ready and will obey your commands.  Practice doesn’t hurt either.


But that’s not all that you’ll find with Nintendogs.  There’s a “Bark” mode that lets your puppy interact with other players’s puppies.  Admittedly it’s mostly for the sheer novelty of watching digital puppies interact and socializing – at least as far as I can tell – but Nintendogs actually manages to get a lot of mileage from the cute puppies, which are superbly animated.  I’m not sure if they used motion capture on real life puppies, but the movements are very lifelike.  It’s interesting just to watch them.


You don’t need Bark mode to see how your puppy responds to other dogs.  You’ll meet them on your walks or if you earn enough cash, you can buy a couple more dogs.  Managing them all can be tricky but you also have the option of sending dogs to a “doggy hotel” or even give them away so you can start from scratch with another dog.


nintendogs review          nintendogs review


It’s clear that Nintendogs is aimed at the same demographic as Tamagotchis and Furbys were aimed at, but Nintendogs has a much wider appeal.  I’ve seen kids and adults enjoying this game – hell, I even giggled with delight when my golden lab, Sushi, sat for the first time – but I have an aversion to playing Nintendogs in public.  The looks I’ve received on public transit is enough to make me keep the game stowed until I’m somewhere I won’t be disturbed.  Not so much because it’s a puppy simulator but because so much of the interaction with the puppy is done with your voice – the extra background noises can affect the voice recognition. (The stylus is mostly used to navigate the straightforward menus, throw objects for your puppy to play with, or pet the dog, but the voice commands are essential to the gameplay.)


The more aesthetic aspects of Nintendogs are great.  I’ve already mentioned the animation but the audio is also good – the puppies even sound cute.  And there are other subtler aspects like when you take your dog for a walk and it’s nighttime in real life the in-game environments are dark.  It’s a great touch and it shows some attention to detail.


If you let it, Nintendogs will warm your gaming heart.  Nintendo put more than enough content into Nintendogs to keep your kids and, lets face it, you engrossed for many hours.  It’s fun, can be a challenge, but those that like a definite direction with their gaming might be disappointed with Nintendogs free-roam, “just have fun” approach.


It’s also worth mentioning that Nintendo is selling three different breeds (i.e. versions) of Nintendogs, each with six different dogs to choose from, so check the box before you buy so you can see if your favorite breed is included.


- Omni

(September 14, 2005)


“Sit, Ubu, sit.  Good dog.”


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