It's that special time of the year again, when the world of casual gaming throws fluffy puppies and wide-eyed kittens at things and hopes to make a profit. This time Neopica has stepped up to the challenge with Pets Resort 3D. In the latest Nintendogs + Cats clone, the player takes command of a rather suspicious institution on a tropical island called 'Pets Resort', which oddly only caters for four breeds of dogs and the same number of cats. If you're a fan of, say, pugs, then we're afraid you may as well stop reading here.
Still with us? Okay, then before we get too carried away, we must keep in mind that this is a game intended for the younger market, and so of course it's only looking to provide a simplistic, easy-to-operate and non-challenging experience, sprinkled with cute looking critters. Even so, there are many instances where even here it falls short. For instance, the menu systems can appear rather overwhelming for younger players, although the map is simple enough to manoeuvre.
Where Pets Resort 3D differs from many other pet simulation games is that it puts you in charge of a large (and expandable) pet pampering facility, rather than simply providing you with puppies to brush and "aww" at. But don't get your hopes up; even though you may be a teenage billionaire who has recently purchased an island — honestly, in this economic climate?! — that doesn't mean that you'll be getting out of those mundane chores, as the majority of your time playing Pets Resort 3D will be made up of washing, feeding and pampering your pooches. While the game does drip-feed players with animal exercise mini-games — such as Fetch — to supplement the pains of sweeping hairs from the cat house, they soon become extremely repetitive and suffer from a lack of challenge. Even abysmally low scores allow you to advance to the next stage of the game.
In comparison to games like Puppies World 3D and Nintendogs + Cats, Pets Resort 3D is an entirely different animal, in that it focuses less on building a loving relationship a virtual pup or kitten. Neopica has chosen to instead push the player towards the (albeit very drawn-out) progression of the resort, as it takes only a few minutes for you to fulfill the requirements of a given pet and return it to their owner. While the sound of an extendable resort may have you dreaming of a Zoo Tycoon-like element to the gameplay, unfortunately the island is already mapped out for you, meaning that you can't manually position any buildings or personalise any part of your resort.
Sadly, by focusing on the development of the resort, Pets Resort 3D suffers from a lack of interaction with the pets themselves. Unlike Nintendogs, there is no way of calling over an animal and playing with them individually. Even while brushing a pet, which is a mandatory part of the resort's care regime, the animals don't react to your movements or even seem to acknowledge your presence.
Pets Resort 3D is also very lacking graphically. While the puppies are sweet, the texture of their fur is predictably second rate in comparison to Nintendogs + Cats and looks practically solid, and the cats have an awful habit of resembling a feline version of Yoda from Star Wars. Another major issue is that every retriever or German shepherd that comes bouncing onto the screen looks identical to the last, so there's no hint of uniqueness or personality to each puppy or kitten. Background environments during mini-games also look very static and unpolished, mostly comprising of a jagged shoreline and a few sad-looking palm trees. Some elements, such as the player character and the receptionist, are 2D sprites; they blend together with the 3D surroundings reasonably well.
With regards to the use of 3D, Pets Resort 3D does little to warrant the inclusion of the '3D' in its title. Even with the 3D slider pushed to the maximum, the game provides neither depth of field or that heart-warming experience of cute puppies jumping up and licking the screen. However, StreetPass functionality is enabled, allowing players to swap accessories and cry about how they wish they'd picked up Nintendogs + Cats instead.
Unfortunately Neopica has not revolutionised the pet simulation genre with its latest offering. The whole experience is both repetitive and mundane, even for the most ardent of pet simulation enthusiasts. However, Pets Resort 3D does provide players with something that Nintendogs + Cats doesn't already offer: the opportunity to clip doggy toe-nails and give cats acupuncture. Yes, really.