Pet simulators have certainly come a long way since the days of Tamagotchi. Where once we raised an LCD dinosaur on a screen the size of a digital watch, now we're treated to 3D renditions of cute, fluffy puppies and kittens, so realistically rendered you half expect them to leap from the screen and naively urinate on your lap. The trend really reached its peak with the Nintendogs series back on the original DS, with the franchise reaching astounding levels of sales during its lifespan. Naturally other interpretations followed suit, each wanting a slice of the pet-sim pie; Bigben Interactive's I Love My Cats is the latest to try its luck.
Unlike Nintendo and Nintendogs + Cats, Bigben Interactive decided to release cats and dogs as two entirely separate pieces of software, forcing consumers to choose between one or the other (or both, if you're slightly mad). I Love My Cats is almost identical in its presentation and premise to I Love My Dogs, only this time you pick a kitten instead of a puppy. You're tasked with naming your new pet, buying it supplies, taking it for walks (yes, walks) and so on. The title follows the Nintendogs formula almost to a tee. Make no mistake, comparing it so closely to the Nintendogs series does not mean it maintains the quality of the original series. While I Love My Cats is comparable to the Nintendo phenomenon, it feels extremely disappointing in contrast.
Upon starting, you get to pick your desired Kitten, setting up the object of the game. You're presented with a choice of eight breeds of cat to adopt right off the bat. The ability to choose between these breeds without unlocking is probably the most welcome feature of I Love My Cats, and goes some way (but not much) towards making up for the absence of Dogs. Upon picking a breed you get an option of three slightly alternate coloured kittens to bond with, and when your favourite becomes apparent you can choose to re-home the animal.
Similarly to owning a real cat, owning a virtual cat comes with its responsibilities. The player will receive prompts encouraging you to feed, wash and deflea your cats, or take them on laser-pointer guided walks (yes, really). This also serves as your opportunity to "collect coins" (currency for your supplies, food etc). Besides caring for your cats you're tasked with regularly cleaning up after them, removing hair and kitty accidents from the floor. While the main tasks of I Love My Cats are fairly mundane and nondescript, you can enter your pet into a number of competitions, should you stick with the experience long enough to unlock them. If the humdrum tasks don't fulfil your needs, two more cats can be adopted - tripling the responsibility.
Unlike Nintendogs + Cats and its stellar use of the touch controls, everything in I Love My Cats feels laborious. The controls can be tedious and unresponsive. From failing to throw a toy during a game of fetch to shaking food out of a can. The process feels oddly awkward for an experience that usually requires a simple tap or a slide of the stylus. Where I Love My Cats does have an upper-hand over its dog companion is in walking. Unlike the incredibly frustrating challenge of guiding your dog via a leash, the cats are “walked" by coaxing them with a laser pointer. Not only is this a more humorous way for getting your cat from one end of the pavement to the other, it's faster and more accurate - removing the sluggishness found when going for strolls in I Love My Dogs.
One of the most notable areas that I Love My Cats fails in is its digital renderings of the cats themselves. The cats look presentable enough and aren't terrible by any means, but the realism of the animals is poor in comparison to Nintendogs + Cats (the 3DS version of which is now over four years old) making it even more difficult to experience any connection with your virtual pet. The ropiness doesn't warrant dismissing the game entirely, and the game still functions as expected - but it's difficult to overlook.
Ultimately, there really is no reason to choose I Love My Cats over the far superior Nintendogs + Cats, a game which allows you to adopt both animals without the need to purchase two separate titles. Younger audiences may find some enjoyment within, but for most I Love My Cats serves as an inferior clone of the Nintendogs series. The experience lacks the qualities of the Nintendo original, and doesn't provide any noteworthy additions to the tried and tested formula.