I can remember exactly what happened when I got my first ever Nintendo DS Lite. All my friends already had one, and feeling left out, I asked for only one Birthday present that year. My wish was granted when I unwrapped a DS lite in Ice Blue. The only game that I got with it was Nintendogs, and I was ecstatic.
We never owned a dog in our house, with the only pet I owned was Zoey the Hamster. I finally had the opportunity to have a Dog, and I would spend hours looking after her. Feeding her, going for walks, teaching her tricks and more. So, I will admit to being a little excited when I got the opportunity for me to get my hands on Little Friends: Dogs & Cats. I was interested to see how the game would be re-imagined, almost 15 years after the first Nintendogs had been released.
It’s unfortunate that I found the game a poor imitation of the once great Franchise. Almost everything seems to be almost an exact replica of Nintendogs. In fact, I would say it is lacking some of the key features that the original had.
Upon the launch of the game, you find yourself at the adoption center, ready to welcome your new Little Friend into your home. There are six dog breeds to choose from; Shiba Inu, Toy Poodle, Labrador Retriever, French Bulldog, and German Shepherd, all with different color variants and personalities. Once you have picked your new Dog, give your pet a name and take them home to get settled in.
You unlock more interactions with your pet as you level up your friendship with them, which is done through making sure the four meters are all green at the bottom of the screen (Happiness, Hunger, Thirst, and Hygiene). You get cash for each interaction too, which is used to buy more food and accessories for your pet.
Now, whilst the Nintendo Switch is an amazing gaming platform, it did not come equipped with a Microphone or Camera, as the DS lite did. With Nintendogs, you were able to talk to your pet, teach it its name and a variety of tricks. I found that as Little Friends: Dogs & Cats does not have the capabilities to talk to your pet, it made the game very impersonal. Even though your pets are still able to learn tricks, they are learned via leveling up your friendship with that pet, not with the touch screen.
I do understand why this had to be modified, as the game is largely aimed at to be played in its docking station, therefore taking away the ability to use the touch screen. However, even when playing with the Joy-Con controllers, I found the controls very clunky.
In docked mode, most of the interaction on Little Friends: Dogs & Cats are through gestures with the Joy-Cons. Whilst caring for your pet, whether it be petting them, brushing them to clean them and playing ball with them, it is through movement with the controllers. Whilst quite enjoyable the first few times, I quickly grew frustrated when my actions did not register with the game. Even though you are able to re-calibrate the Joy-Cons, it very quickly got messed up again. The same could be said with throwing the ball, as more often than not, I found myself having trouble aiming where the ball would go. It was much easier to play in Handheld mode, with using the touch screen to pet and brush them, and simply pressing ‘A’ to throw the ball.
Once you get used to the controls and you have increased your friendship, you will be able to ‘Go Out’ with that pet, take it on a walk, practice with the flying disk and eventually compete in the Flying Disk Competitions. I actually quite enjoyed walking my pet, as with a simple side to side motion, you control where to lead the dog. I encountered the same problem with the flying disk that I did with the ball, as I often found myself flapping and shaking the Joy-Con to even throw the disk. This led to difficulty in even winning the flying disk competitions as I was wasting time trying the throw the disk.
Despite the more negative sides to the game, I do have to admit that the game does well when it comes to the shop. It is here that you can buy food, toys, clothes, and accessories for your pet, and while you will only start with a few styles of clothing, a couple of styles of vests, and skirts each with multiple color options, more will be unlocked as your friendship increases with your pet. I am not usually the kind of person who would spend time in accessorizing my pet, but I will admit just this once to playing dress up!
With only the dressing up and the walking as it’s only selling point to me, I struggled to stay interested in playing. The option of having a cat and adopting two more pets being unlocked at level 15, it was hard to want to repeat the same actions over and over again, especially as I found them lacking.
I could only play for short intervals of time, before turning the game off. Thankfully, there is no penalty for leaving your pet alone for days at a time, with only their coats of fur being dirtier and their interaction meters being lower. I would not be surprised if there are many other players out there that will sure the same problem as myself.