Do you get the feeling we've barked up this tree before? My Pet School 3D is much like other entries in TREVA's bloated stable of pet sims, such as Me & My Pets 3D and Life with Horses 3D. Each successive instalment comes with the desperate hope that some new tricks have been learned this time around, only to have it stare back at you with big, vacant eyes as it piddles right next to the papers you laid out for it.

To the developers' credit, My Pet School 3D does attempt some improvements over its predecessors. Perhaps most useful is a tutorial that now pops up in the beginning of the game. While the instructions aren't perfectly clear, it at least points out the general direction of what you should be doing. Some exploration and perusal of the 20-section digital manual is usually enough to set oneself straight, should you have the patience.

The "3D" slapped onto every game title is also fought to be earned now more than ever, with roamable areas and polygonal constructs. While a bit better, none of this is still particularly pretty or fluid. The top screen's 3D effects are barely used - much of the time being a black screen with your time and money count - and the landscape looks somewhat muddy in texture, although colourful. Doors don't open as you enter buildings; instead, the walls and roof just spontaneously vanish to show you the furnishings inside. In fact, they'll just up and blow off even when you're not approaching at all sometimes, which seems like something to bring up at the next Homeowners Association meeting.

The world also feels a little too open for how much you can do in it; especially in the beginning. Running to town to get some food feels like a significant jog to just get something you could order from a home computer in previous games, and All Dogs Go to Heaven forbid if you somehow get lost on the way back. There's a quaint little pond area and a film studio within the world that can be used later, but they don't serve any purpose at the start except making you wish there was a map. The sluggish camera controls and the plodding rate at which your character covers ground don't help much, either. If you get stuck wandering for a bit, however, the sound is at least much easier to listen to than in previous games, providing soothing nature sounds or some unobtrusive BGM.

You do get to choose between a male or female character this time around, and have a few customization options for hair and outfit. Each also comes with a voice that will address client's animals by name, which is a nice little touch; you also get to choose whether to start the game with dogs, cats, puppies/kitties or small animals such as rabbits. Other creatures such as birds and horses become available once there's enough money to build their homes, too.

Unfortunately, none of this freedom for options keeps the game from following in the same meter-slaving pawprints of others before it. Let's say you want to teach an animal one of the basics: recognizing its own name. First, make sure its Rest, Trust, and Hunger meters are good, which you can influence by tapping food into a dish or tapping the "Stroke" button. When ready, tap the "Transport" button to carry or have the animal follow you to a training area. Tap the "Name" button to call the critter's name. It will then tell you if the animal responded or not. If so, tap the "Praise" button. If not, tap the "No" button. Correct choices will add points to the "Name" lesson. Get enough and it's trained! Finally, tap the Home button to go into the menu and play a more rewarding pet sim like Nintendogs instead.

Conclusion

It feels like some effort was put into My Pet School 3D to improve its pet care experience, but it sometimes comes at the cost of a new problem. Ultimately, though, the core formula remains too lifeless and disconnected to make you really care about the pets under your virtual roof, and that will have to change to make these titles truly worth investing time in. Sit. Heel. Stay away.