Review: NIntendos + cats
Posted 24 Mar 2011 at 07:48 by Ashley Jones
|"Nintendogs + cats takes full advantage of the new technology offered by the 3DS"|
The adorable Nintendogs return and this time they have more realistic fur, a few new tricks up their sleeves and some feline friends. The original Nintendogs captured the hearts of pet fans everywhere and Nintendogs + cats hopes to do this once more.
Not much has changed in terms of how the game plays, as they say "if it's not broke, don't fix it". You begin the game by choosing a dog and paying for it and then you must care for it, teach it tricks and enter it into competitions to get money. There are numerous additions to allure Nintendogs players back. Nintendogs + cats takes full advantage of the new technology offered by the 3DS as the biggest new features are the use of augmented reality, the use of StreetPass, the ability to take photographs as well as the ability to purchase and care for cats.
In the 3DS hardware review I spoke about the exciting possibilities of the augmented reality function and Nintendogs + cats is the showcase title released so far. As well as being able to project your pet into the real world using the supplied cards, even dressing them up in various hats depending on the card, you can enter them into competitions. While the competition, an obedience one, could be done without the use of augmented reality it is a great way to implement the new technology available.
At any point during the game you are able to hit the L or R buttons to snap a photo of whatever is happening on the top screen. This feature can even be used while viewing your pet in augmented reality so if you've ever wanted to see a virtual dog next to your real one now you can. These photos can then be viewed on the 3DS itself or transferred to your computer via the SD card.
The StreetPass function is another one of the exciting new features the 3DS has introduced and is successfully implemented in Nintendogs + cats. The walk mode from Nintendogs remains but now there is an additional mode called Pedometer. This mode will ask you to put your 3DS into sleep mode and walks your dog while measuring the amount of steps you take while it is in the sleep mode. These are then converted into Play Coins (1 for every 100 steps) to use either in game or in other titles. In addition to this it will exchange information, and perhaps even gifts, with anyone else you pass who has Nintendogs + cats, providing the wireless connection is switched on. While I have not been able to personally experience this, due to the game not being out when I wrote this review, given the popularity of the original title it is likely many people out there will be playing this one and this feature will become valuable.
The ability to view the game in 3D means your pets can now appear as if they are jumping out of the screen at you. It is certainly a nice touch but after seeing it a few times it can become a bit passé. The 3D is also used to add depth to environments and it works well but most of the time it is simply better to switch off the 3D, if not for the sake of the battery alone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with how the 3D is done but it is not necessary to get the full enjoyment out of the game.
One of the big new features that has simultaneously pleased and peeved fans is the inclusion of cats. When this was first announced those who sit on the feline side of the fence were delighted that their favourite creatures are getting some recognition. However, as information began to trickle out they became less enthusiastic. As it turns out they do very little and there are only three breeds of cats: shorthair, long-haired and Siamese.
On the bright side it is not as grim as it may first appear. While there are only three breeds there are a variety of fur colours and patterns for each. It is not the same as having a variety of breeds but at least there is some form of variety available. Furthermore, cats in the real world often seem to only have one or two 'tricks' and then just rule the house the rest of the time, which the cats in Nintendogs + cats do. In honesty it would be weird if they did anything other than lazily lounge around.
What is most annoying for cat owners is the fact you have to wait for a while before being able to get a cat. After starting out with £2,000 you spend most of your money on a dog. With cats costing over £800 (the pricing in this game seems pretty arbitrary) you must swiftly train up your puppy and enter it into competitions if you really want to get that feline.
The cats do handle and act different from the dogs, as you would hope, in numerous ways. You can stroke them in the same manner as the dogs although they do respond differently (watch them go crazy when you rub their bellies) and you can also grab their ears and tails and play with those. When you're not doing anything a cat will typically either stroll around leisurely or go sleep somewhere. At first this will be the bookshelf but when you begin adding more furniture it will find new places to lounge around in or on.
You can play with your cat using a number of toys and it will even play with the dogs at times. You may not be able to enter it into competitions or teach it tricks but that does not mean there isn't plenty to do with the cats. Cat lovers will love all the added touches that really makes them seem like cats. For instance if you are stroking them for a while they will turn around and point their backsides toward you, a strange cat habit I have noticed. This is just one of numerous examples of particularly cat-like behaviour found in Nintendogs + cats.
The way you care for and interact with the dogs is fairly similar to Nintendogs. While the touch screen now has a silhouette instead of the actual dog, which is now found on the 3D screen, the input feels the same. At times it can get irritating as you seem to be unable to stroke them as the audio feedback, an itching sound, that is usually present doesn't work. It still seems to have some effect but you can begin to feel guilty as your pet looks up at you expectantly and you feel as if you are doing nothing.
One of the biggest issues present in Nintendogs + cats is the lacklustre collision detection. It may not directly impede gameplay but it does seem like something that could have been fixed or improved upon. Quite often a lead will go through a dog, or the pets will put their paws or toys through each other and such forth. Whether or not this happens due to technological or time constraint issues is unknown but it can sometimes be a nuisance to see and take away some of the game's charms by reminding you 'these are just polygons'.
The fact that the game relies on cycles, as do all games, means that occasionally the pets move a little strangely sometimes. Every now and then you will catch a dog sliding across the room and it can be a little jarring, like the collision detection issue. Once more it doesn't make the game any less enjoyable but it does feel as though corners were cut.
Whether or not Nintendogs + cats will fall foul of Nintendogs' biggest issue, its lifespan, remains to be seen. While the game doesn't deteriorate over time many gamers simply found themselves losing interest. A virtual pet is great because it means you don't have the same responsibilities as a real one (and can be a brilliant learning tool for children in this regards) but on the other hand without responsibilities they can be forgotten about easily. The new features in Nintendogs + cats should hopefully keep gamers playing a bit longer, if not for the pedometer alone, but that remains to be seen.
Nintendogs + cats is ultimately an enjoyable game that oozes charm. There is something so enjoyable about watching the animals interact with the world around them, be it batting around tennis balls or playing with each other. However, the best element is the ability to interact with them, whether it's in the form of stroking them, walking them or entering them into competitions. Pet lovers will undoubtedly love this game and anyone wanting a bit of a break from fast-paced titles such as Super Street Fighter IV 3D should consider this.
N-Europe Final Verdict
If you liked Nintendogs you'll love this. Its adorable but could become forgotten about after some time.
Good use of 3DS' unique features.
Cats add some variety.
A faithful replication of pet ownership.
Can encourage good health through the pedometer.
Some graphical issues.
Cats seem almost like an afterthought.