Even though Littlest Pet Shop Winter is clearly aimed at a younger audience, I found the game strangely addictive for a while. Defined as “a special place where your pets will come to life and you can play with them in a whole new way,” the aim of the game is to adopt all of the pets (20 different animals are available), and keep them happy by playing games with them, allowing them to travel to different worlds, feeding and petting them. The game really is as simple as that.
Littlest Pet Shop: Winter features a variety of small, cute, adorable, lovable animals, all with longing, bulging eyes, which immediately make you want to adopt and take care of them. The game starts with you being given three pets to adopt and your left to start up your own pet shop. Even though there are 20 pets available, you aren’t given a choice of which pets you can adopt nor in which order; the default setting is that you start off with a kitten, a puppy and a rabbit.
After adopting your pets, the first task is to name the pets. The game allows you to call your pets whatever you wish, a nice touch for allowing children to use their imagination, while also making it more personal and seem more like the pets are their own. The pets arrive on the Pet Shop Express, the in-game train, arriving in Pets Plaza, which is more like a Spring World – slightly misleading when the game is supposedly set in Winter World, which is not available until later on in the game, after certain conditions have been met. In total there are three further worlds to be unlocked, Winter, Jungle, and the third I am yet to find out as I haven’t got far enough in the game.
The game revolves around playing mini-games to earn kibble, with which you can then buy items at Meow Mart, the Pet Store in Pet Plaza. With the kibble, you can buy play-sets, items to dress up your pets in and train tickets to bring new pets to your pet shop. There are a variety of fairly simple mini-games, including colouring in, balancing on a ball, riding on a gondola, and hide and seek to name a few.
Some of the games are a little bit unresponsive, particularly those that are controlled with the stylus, but as there are easy, medium and hard settings on all mini-games, earning enough points to be awarded with the ribbons, thus earning kibble is not difficult to achieve. Earning kibble is imperative to succeed in the game; this does however mean that the mini-games have to be played multiple times, which can be rather repetitive and get boring after a while, though I am sure they will engage a child (the target audience) for longer than an adult.
Navigation around the game is achieved using the stylus, though this can be fairly frustrating as the pets do not always respond and go the direction you want them to. However, the bulk of the game does not involve you having to move the pets far, so this is not a big problem. During the game you receive mail with tasks to complete, such as earning a red ribbon with a specific pet in a particular mini-game, which adds focus and a little challenge to the game. You can easily swap between pets by pressing the B button, and you can travel to the different worlds by touching the signpost in the world.
As with all pets, you have to look after their welfare. This is very easy to achieve; touching the pink face icon brings up a pet welfare menu, with two satisfaction bars, one for pet mood, and the other for energy. If the bars are low, simply scratch the pet to improve the mood, and feed the pet to increase the energy levels...simple, and far easier than looking after a real pet. Also, as it is a children’s game, the pets don’t run away, and they won’t die, so there is no need to worry about children getting upset at the loss of a pet.
The graphics are nothing special, but then it is a simple child’s game, and so there is no need for complex graphics. The game is brightly coloured and eye-catching, so very appealing to its intended audience. As for the game sounds, there isn’t a particular theme tune as such, just very chirpy snippets of music, and the odd random sound from one of the pets, again very suitable for the game and the audience.
If you are buying this for a young girl who loves animals or the idea of having a pet and looking after them, then this game is ideal, and will probably provide hours of entertainment. However, for an older audience, I don’t think this game would appeal to many.