Product Type: Nintendo Nintendo DS games
Newest Review: ... local 'GAME' store for around £25 ('GAME' no longer sell DSLite games but you could find 'Nintendogs' online if you wanted to. The 'Ninten... more
Looking after Pets can be Child's Play!
Nintendogs Labrador Retriever & Friends (DS)
Member Name: jo1976
Nintendogs Labrador Retriever & Friends (DS)
Date: 06/11/11, updated on 30/08/13 (125 review reads)
Advantages: Fun, easy to play, educates children about pet care to some degree
Disadvantages: Some unrealistic aspects, slightly repetitive, not challenging, set up was confusing
Despite this game being released several years ago, Nintendogs, in all of its many versions, is surprisingly expensive. I paid £22.99 from Amazon for the 'Labrador and Friends' version which is far more than I like to pay for a game but this is considered to be a classic game for the DS console and has consequently held its selling price well.
This game is essentially a virtual pet, with the player being able to choose a puppy and then go through the motions of naming, training, feeding, walking and generally caring for their dog. The game also includes different contests which provide the opportunity of earning money to spend on basic essentials for your mutt or luxury items such as a penthouse suite!
Having been desperate to own this game, my nine year old was very eager to play this and was really looking forward to taking his new 'puppy' for a walk. Here, we met the first and a major disappointment as the game has a series of steps that must be followed on initial set-up. After choosing a puppy, the player needs to teach the new pup his/her own name and ensure that the dog is able to recognise and respond to their name before being able to move on to any other tasks.
Whilst this might not sound like a major problem, this task proved really difficult for my son to do on his first attempt as his dog (or more accurately the DS) failed to respond consistently to his voice, so didn't learn his name successfully. (The name needs to be called clearly and with the same intonation every time.) What did confuse us initially (and wasn't at all made clear from the instruction booklet) was that the icons for other options -such as going out-, feeding and so on- don't even appear on the screen until the dog has successfully learned his own name. This seemed a little illogical to me as my son was desperate to feed and walk his new pet and was upset about the dog's status being described as hungry and thirsty, as he wasn't able to access the options to address this. My impatient boy found this incredibly frustrating and the birthday boy ended up having a tantrum, throwing the game on the floor and announcing diva-style that it was the worst birthday present ever!
After some confusion and frustration, we eventually decided to give up and start over, wiping the poor pooch completely by following the instructions tucked away halfway through the booklet. We soon learned that it is worth considering the different breeds and the temperament of each different puppy as certain dogs are much easier to train and respond far more quickly to their naming and, subsequently, can follow other instructions and learn different tricks too. My son has since gone on to purchase several other puppies and now has the early training down to a fine art but it is worth bearing in mind that the initial set-up might take a little longer and be potentially frustrating for a younger player.
Despite the PEGI rating of 3+ this is more about the content (in terms of no violence, bad language etc), rather than indication of the complexity of the game itself. In light of the issues around set up, as well as the different elements involved in the game itself, I would recommend this for children over the age of around eight years old. Certainly, a child needs to be a very confident reader to follow the considerable amount of written instructions and detail on screen throughout different stages of the game. A younger child may enjoy playing certain elements, such as 'walking' the dog or playing Frisbee in the park, but would need considerable adult intervention to navigate through the game and to understand the instructions. An adult or older child should find the menu system fairly straightforward and logically set out with the stylus primarily used for much of the game. The vocabulary included is generally accessible for under-tens, although my son found some of the terms such as 'parched' and 'quenched' a little confusing as they were unfamiliar terms to him.
At the upper age range, this really is a game that extends to adulthood and certainly isn't marketed as a children's game at all. Even I, as a generally disinterested game-player, find this a fun game to play - particularly entering the contests although I am, as my son points out, particularly bad at them. It is a fairly relaxing game overall and isn't particularly challenging or taxing for an adult player but there is undoubtedly an addictive quality that makes it tempting to keep picking this up again and again, particularly as you soon develop a sense of responsibility towards the virtual animal.
As this involves owning and caring for a virtual pet, there are obviously educational benefits as this makes children aware of some of the responsibilities of pet ownership. My son wisely took the decision that having three dogs at any one time was plenty for him to look after (any more have to be cared for at the dog hotel anyway.) I do find the initial stages are a little illogical, given the need to name and train the dog before being able to feed them. Surely it would be more realistic to ensure that the new puppy is fed and watered initially and a much better message to give to an impressionable child about basic pet care. Aside from that minor quibble, this is an excellent alternative to owning a real life pet - much cheaper and far less mess! Unlike real animals, these pups won't die either if neglected or mistreated although they will be very subdued if left for long enough.
After getting over his initial disappointment, Nintendogs has proven to be a real hit with my son. He is constantly fussing over his pups. His favourite feature is walking them, as this provides the opportunity for the dog to find random objects as he goes along. As an adult, I do find this feature a little bizarre. It is completely unrealistic as, rather than picking up sticks or bits of left over takeaways as a real dog would, these dogs can find expensive vases, go karts and remote control helicopters on their travels! Even more unrealistically, rather than just being objects for the dogs to play with, anything picked up on a walk can be sold at the second hand shop for various sums of money - sometimes over £100 per item! I'm not too sure about the morals behind this game but it does ensure that my son's virtual pets are walked very frequently and he has plenty of money to buy them sparkly collars, food and to upgrade their home regularly. It is also possible to earn money through winning contests although my son gets frustrated when he loses his money on the contests he doesn't win (or more accurately when Mum plays and loses his cash!
The only drawback to such a simple, fun game is that there is no ending or ultimate goal to work towards so would not appeal to players who prefer a challenge. As something easy and entertaining to dip in and out of, this certainly fits the bill, although it does have the potential to become too repetitive if played too often.
Overall, this has proven to be a great hit in our household and has been enjoyed by kids and adults alike. It is generally quite a simple game that may lose its appeal if played with on a long-term basis but it certainly offers enough variety to entertain a child - or an adult- for a good few months, with no sign of the novelty wearing off as yet.
Nintendogs has proven to be a popular game that has stood the test of time and this is a true classic for a reason. Easy to play, engaging and entertaining, this is a game that even a non-gamer like myself is happy to recommend.
Summary: A DS classic