Nintendo certainly struck gold with Nintendogs on the DS back in 2005, winning the hearts of millions of gamers the world over with its blend of training, walking and generally caring for a band of virtual puppies so convincingly animated that you’d swear Battersea Dogs Home had dumped a truckload of actual puppies into your DS. Last year, the 3DS launched alongside Nintendogs + Cats, which went to even greater lengths to establish a bond between player and pixelated pooch. By presenting them in full 3D, not only were these dogs even more lovingly recreated, it seemed at times that you could actually reach out and touch them.
Of course, with each and every successful foray into new concepts, there will always a throng of imitators waiting in the wings; perpetually keeping an eye out for what’s proving astronomically popular, ever ready to imitate, sit back and wait for the money to start rolling in.
Assuming you’re not one of the two people in the world reading this who have never played Nintendogs + Cats, you’ll likely know precisely what to expect from Puppies World 3D. As the new guy in town, you’re immediately accosted by Beth, owner of the neighbourhood puppy emporium named Friends, aptly setting the sickly sweet tone that Puppies World 3D adopts and adheres to throughout its entirety like, well, a dog with a bone. Beth invites you to pick yourself a brand new puppy from 12 available breeds and from that point on, it’s up to you to ensure that your canine of choice is well cared for. If your puppy requires food, water or a bath, the corresponding icon will appear above it while it frolics around inside your house. Alternatively, you can keep tabs on your puppy’s needs by manually checking on its hunger, thirst, coat and loyalty meters.
These meters are, however, meaningless for the most part, as very rarely will they make a blind bit of difference to how a puppy behaves. Should you, for example, acquire a golden retriever and neglect to feed it or bathe it for well over a week of in-game time — something we decided to research very early on, purely in the interests of thoroughness — it will still aimlessly gambol about the place without a care in the world, oblivious to its malnutrition and questionable hygiene (even by puppy standards). Only loyalty has any bearing on your puppy’s behaviour — although it will still come bounding over whenever you call it, even if its loyalty meter is completely empty — as you’ll be entirely unable to make it perform any tricks if it’s not fussed on you in the slightest.
Actually teaching your puppy the various tricks included is something of a sticking point, as it’s a woefully monotonous process. Here, you participate in a tedious minigame that, like everything else in Puppies World 3D, is controlled via the touch screen. This minigame entails dragging four of the same icon — whichever one corresponds to the desired trick — to the centre of the screen before a 30 second timer reaches zero and must be repeated ad nauseum until your puppy has fully grasped the trick. It’s neither fun nor challenging in the slightest and you’ll often need to go through the same boring process a good six or seven times before the penny finally drops and the stupid animal eventually cottons on to what you’re trying to teach it.
Nintendogs executed the process of teaching tricks to your dogs with far more style and ingenuity nearly six years ago by utilising the DS’s microphone, yet Puppies World 3D for some mystifying reason decides to omit this feature entirely. What’s even more baffling is that the back of the box states that training your puppies via voice commands is possible, yet nowhere within the in-game tutorials nor the instruction manual is this method of input ever mentioned, while substantial playtesting yielded no results whatsoever. The only explanation we can think of here is that the feature was cut from the final game in an effort to get it onto store shelves as quickly as possible.
Once you’ve endured the unrelenting tedium of morphing your puppy into a performing monkey, tricks can be taken advantage of by dragging your pooch along to contests, where they’ll be required to show off what they’ve learned for points. And what do points mean? Prizes, of course. These take the form of various items — food, water, shampoo, etc — or coins, which can be exchanged for all the aforementioned essentials, along with a myriad of toys, hats, scarves and other accessories that make owning a virtual German shepherd that eerily resembles Tom Selleck in Magnum P.I. entirely feasible. Additional contest types include having your puppy chase after a frisbee or — inexplicably — shoot some hoops and attempt to get different coloured balls into the corresponding baskets. As you win the various contests, you’ll gain access to more advanced versions of them, with the payoff increasing each time the difficulty is ramped up.
Not that you’ll ever need to participate in competitions to net yourself a vast amount of coins; in fact, the value of Puppies World 3D’s currency must surely be at rock bottom by now, so often are coins thrust in the player’s direction. Not only will you be “rewarded” with coins each time a new day rolls around, but your puppy will dig them up while out for walks and additional coinage can be attained by completing any of the 52 challenges present. And since these challenges more often than not entail performing even the most menial of tasks enough times, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever find yourself short on money.
Credit where credit’s due, Puppies World 3D at least tries to utilise the 3DS console's capabilities, allowing players to interact with their puppies within recreations of real life environments by way of taking photos, while extra goodies can be acquired via StreetPass. Unfortunately, the puppies aren’t particularly well animated and rarely react convincingly whenever you pet them, and thus the somewhat low quality of the pictures taken by the system's cameras destroys the illusion of watching your virtual puppies dash around your living room even further and it comes as a small consolation. Additionally, you can have your puppy appear in the real world by using an AR card, although the stiffly animated animal will merely sit there, occasionally barking or turning on the spot, and you're unable to interact with it in any meaningful way.
While there's nothing drastically wrong with it, Puppies World 3D is still a mixture of niggling flaws, missed opportunities, humdrum presentation and broken promises; the kind of shovelware that has plagued the industry for years, never aspiring to go above and beyond what has already come before it. Lamentably, what preceded it was executed with infinitely more love and attention and if you already played — or are indeed still playing — Nintendogs + Cats, there’s absolutely no reason for you to even entertain the notion of picking up Puppies World 3D.