Selectsoft apparently buys its quirky pets in bulk. From dinosaurs to penguins, it's got your number; as long as it’s 101. Now its attention has inevitably turned toward the ultimate care-for-me-and-squee animals: ponies.
101 Pony Pets 3D takes a cue from A Certain Friendshipically Magical Brand by offering three different breeds of creature: the standard pony, the slightly more majestic unicorn, and the cherubically squat pegasus (the Danny DeVito of small horses). The game does carve its own stylistic path, veering away from pastel, toy-like brushability in favour of a more masculine goofiness that has its own strange charm. Those expecting flying or magic will be disappointed, however, as wings and horns are purely cosmetic differences.
While there are technically more than 101 different combinations of pony that can be made, the customization options are still quite limited. Caretakers can mix and match between three different varieties of hide for each type of pony, along with three different styles of tail and mane available in only three different colours. There can also be only one pony for each of the game’s three save slots, so your plans for an equestrian army are shot. This is not the ultimate pony creation engine, but at least there’s some personalisation with unlockable objects such as hats, goggles, and tattoos. Yes, that’s really what the game calls them. No cutie marks here; these stallions are hardcore!
After creating a pony, it will need to be cared for through a variety of small and mini-sized games. The pony’s needs will be displayed by a set of meters, and playing the related mini-games will keep them elevated. The most basic of tasks are found here, including rubbing the stylus over the pony to wash it or literally rocking the 3DS to lull it to sleep. Thankfully, these needs aren’t in constant demand and won’t really get in the way of other distractions.
Somewhat meatier (oatier?) games are available, all of which will be familiar to seasoned players. There’s the competition that’s a memory game, a matching game where you line up fruit to eliminate it, and basic Picross, among others. For how unoriginal and basic they are, it must be said that these games are pretty well made, with a bit of depth and increasing difficulty to be found. Having a small amount of thought put into games like these, instead of just plopping them in as filler, is appreciated; everything is also explained well, so even the newest of gamers should be able to pick it all up easily.
Tying all these activities together is a levelling system that unlocks new things to do and grants coins to purchase stuff from a shop, such as the previously mentioned personalization items and boosts for games. There’s also a separate achievement system that will reward extra XP and items for completing certain tasks. It’s a relatively mindless way to keep a player’s attention, but the plentiful stream of quests are still effective at hitting one’s reward centers.
The main farm locale of 101 Pony Pets 3D has a colourful and cartoonish appeal with a pleasant, laid-back soundtrack, but it still feels a bit sad seeing your pony wander around as its lone occupant. Your virtual ponies won’t interact with you as intimately as the pets of Nintendogs, making it more difficult to form any sort of bond, but at least they prance about with some personality.
There is very little in 101 Pony Pets 3D that will impress, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a terrible game. There are plenty of worse pet-themed titles out there, and younger players who haven’t yet been inundated by the types of time-wasters found in these fields may find the game a likeable little outlet for them. Anyone looking for something fresh or deep, though, should best set off for greener pastures.