When you first boot up 101 DinoPets 3D you're greeted with an introduction that sees you finding an abandoned dinosaur hatchling on your front porch. If you're anything like us, this will fill you with excitement about how much potential for fun this concept has. Then again if you're anything like us that excitement will soon disappear due to mindless repetition and oppressive tedium.
First things first: the 101 in the title refers to the total number of possible combinations of traits you can assign your dinosaur. In practice there are only five different types of dino to choose from, and the differences between them are entirely cosmetic. You can then choose a colour for your pet, give it some claws, and so on, but the actual pet creation process makes the game feel far more limited than its title suggests; you can also give your dinosaur a name, and that's it as far as customisation goes. You can have three separate dinos (due to three save slots)... a far cry from 101.
The game itself is a very simple pet sim. Your dinosaur will slug aimlessly around the house, with a set of icons letting you know that he's hungry, sick, tired, and so on. When he's any of these things you'll tap the appropriate icon on the touch screen to address the issue. There are some unlockable variants — such as different types of food to feed your pet, or different clothes for it to wear — but the experience of interacting with your pet never changes, and it gets dull pretty quickly.
The key to an engaging pet sim is that the pets actually have personality. Nintendogs understood this, but 101 DinoPets 3D seems to think that sticking a T-Rex in a sailor suit while it hobbles about a low-polygon kitchen is good enough. Without personality it's impossible to feel any sort of connection to your pet, and once you realise that you're bound to wonder why you're bothering to hang around until it needs to go to the toilet.
There are a few additional activities you can perform with your pet, such as entering it in talent competitions to show off the tricks you've taught it. Sadly the tricks consist of simple lines you draw on the touch screen, and the antics your pet performs as a result don't seem to have any connection at all to what you've drawn, making the exercise feel rather arbitrary. You can also play a series of minigames, such as jigsaw puzzles and matching games, that have genuinely nothing to do with your pet and feel like stray code from an unrelated release.
All of this would be fine — perhaps not particularly impressive, but fine — if it weren't for the presence of one serious bug: it's possible for your items, such as food, to enter the negative numbers. Once that happens, you may be trapped.
For instance, you may have one unit of food remaining. Your dinosaur is hungry, so you tap the food icon, and it ambles over to its dish. However if you tap the icon twice, it's possible that the game will interpret that as two feedings, even though you don't have enough food for that. The amount of food remaining will therefore be displayed as "-1," the dinosaur will never stop eating, and you may have to start fresh and create a whole new pet. If the lack of personality didn't destroy all engagement you'd have had with your dinosaur, having to start all over with a new one due to a glitch certainly will.
The 3D effect is nice, but isn't really necessary for a game like this, especially when your dinosaur just slowly zig zags around the room like a living screen saver. The graphics are unimpressive and the music is as devoid of character as anything else in the game. In fact, for all the promise that the word "DinoPet" brings to mind, in practice it just seems like a mess of barely connected ideas without any regard for what makes the genre work in the first place.
If someone leaves this rotten egg on your porch, just sweep it into the trash.
101 DinoPets 3D isn't egregiously bad — one game-breaking glitch aside — but the experience it provides ranges from dull to muddled. Unrelated and pointless minigames, silly costumes and a complete lack of momentum betray a product that tries to pass off its disconnectedness as quirkiness. Those dying for an eShop pet sim might be more forgiving, but anyone seeking a more solid and engaging experience would be wise to look elsewhere.