We'll say this at the outset: pet sims are not for everybody. We know that much, and while the popularity of certain genres might baffle us at times, we'd never dream of holding a game's genre against it. While we may or may not get swept up in any particular enthusiasm ourselves, we'd like to think that we can distance ourselves enough from the product to evaluate, as best we can, what it does right.
My Baby Pet Hotel 3D makes it even easier for us to distance ourselves from it than usual, because it's an awful, awful, awful game.
The idea is that you step in to run a baby pet hotel, which actually had been the lifelong dream of many Nintendo Life staffers. It's your job to keep the pets happy and healthy until their owners come back for them, and that's a task you accomplish, somehow, by gliding your uncustomisable avatar through the same terribly rendered environments over and over again.
Does that sound fun? It gets worse.
The controls are inexcusably poor. For a game that only asks you to walk around and feed things, you'd think it would be pretty difficult to screw up. Yet the developers managed to bungle not just one but two separate control schemes.
When you're walking around the hotel or nearby city, you move your character with either the D-pad or circle pad. That's literally the only thing you can do — there's no jumping or interacting — so you'd think that they'd have to work pretty hard to mess that up. Unfortunately for everybody, they made sure to work hard enough to mess that up.
Your character, for whatever reason, controls like a tank. You don't simply press the direction you'd like her to go; you steer her. It's such a bizarre choice for a game that involves walking around a ranch rather than gunplay, as though the engine was repurposed from some terrible third-person shooter. She also turns and moves with agonizing slowness, meaning an act as simple as turning 45 degrees to your left feels like you're guiding a trash barge.
Not helping matters is the fact that the game's framerate is laughable. Strolling across all two of My Baby Pet Hotel 3D's environments is like wading through maple syrup. Coming out in the same month as the silky smooth Sonic Lost World and Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai, My Baby Pet Hotel 3D has no excuse. The 3DS is absolutely capable of breathtaking visuals at fantastic framerates. The fact that this game can't render a little girl shuffling along a dirt path without feeling like it's going to explode in your hands is absurd.
The touch controls don't fare any better. When shopping for items, using menus or interacting with the animals, you'll dig out your stylus. That's fine and, again, you'd think they'd have to work pretty hard to screw up something so simple. We're sure you know where we're going with this...
In order to interact with an animal, you have to tap it twice. My Baby Pet Hotel 3D is very particular about your tapping, however, and we often struggled with it. If a small animal is somewhere toward the back of a room, it's a crap shoot whether or not your input is recognized when you tap it. And if two animals are close together, you might as well flip a coin over which one you get to interact with. As certain goals within the game require you to perform a specific action with a specific animal, it's very frustrating to have to back out of interaction menus over and over again until you end up with the right pet.
There are seven things you can do with any animal, but as you might expect there are many duplicates. Feed, Reward and Treat all require you to pass some vittles over to the pet to eat. Care and Pet both see you dragging the stylus over the creature, the former in service of a bath and the latter in service of some old fashioned manual affection. Play and Tricks serve similar purposes but they are handled in different ways. In Tricks you'll have to trace shapes as they appear on the touch screen, which we found to be legitimately impossible for whatever reason. In Play you get to hide a ball under a cup and then shuffle them around. The animal watches with dead eyes as you then uncover the ball yourself, and how this could possibly benefit the creature in any way we'll never know.
If you do well at any of these tasks, you'll be given the message, "The animal quality is optimal!" which sounds a lot more like something you'd say after eating the animal rather than playing with it, but it's also emblematic of the game's overall approach to its text, which seems to be that it throws some words onto the screen and hopes for the best. The sentence construction is unacceptably bad, and it's not likely that many adults will understand what the game is trying to say half the time, let alone the kids My Baby Pet Hotel 3D is targeting.
There are a very limited number of music clips that play, and they each come to a dead stop with a few seconds of silence before it starts up again. The effect is less like you're listening to a video game soundtrack and more like there's a kid sitting behind you playing the same maddening Raffi song over and over again.
Every so often you'll be given a task by a woman in the city. It will have something to do with performing some activity with one of the animals in your care. You'll have to find that animal, force the touch screen to cooperate with you, and then walk all the way back to the woman for your next task. Sometimes she will give you a trophy to display in your hotel, and when you get a look at the unfinished yellow smear that this game tries to pass off as a reward, you'll see all you need to know about My Baby Pet Hotel 3D.
My Baby Pet Hotel 3D isn't just a boring and aimless experience, it's also extremely poorly made. Frame rate issues, nonsensical text and music that loops as gracefully as a car accident are all hallmarks of this animalistic misadventure. There are better pet sims available in the eShop for those that must have them, and this is a download that we wouldn't be recommending even if it was free. We recommend you put this one down.