Along with My Little Pony, Polly Pocket, Strawberry Shortcake and a whole host of other toys that now-twenty-something females grew up playing with, Hasbro's Littlest Pet Shop has been given a makeover and revived for the enjoyment of today's generation. Originally released back in the early 1990's, the line of toys features tiny, adorable plastic pets in equally tiny habitats in order to cash in on little girls' love of all things small and cute. In this digital age, EA and Hasbro have already released several Littlest Pet Shop games for Nintendo systems already, with no fewer than seven already on the DS. With EA now releasing DSiWare games, it was perhaps only a matter of time before some kind of Littlest Pet Shop game hit the DSi Shop, but will this appeal to everyone or just fans of the toys?
As the brand new owner of your very own Littlest Pet Shop, you control the game entirely with the stylus. Tap 'Play' to begin your game with pet #817, a Great Dane puppy that looks more like a Chihuahua thanks to its gigantic head. After naming it, the game walks you through interacting with your new pet, showing you how to get it to perform a few tricks - turning around in a circle, standing on its hind legs, the usual puppy tricks - and then introduces the treat and brush items, located on the left-hand side of the screen. Tap and drag the brush over the pup to send it into near-throes of ecstasy as you 'brush' its fur. Tap the dog treat and then drag your stylus into a short flick to toss it up into the air, at which point the puppy will run off and catch it. Brushing and feeding the puppy in this manner fills the Pet-O-Meter on the top screen; the more rainbow bones appear there, the better your puppy will respond when you attempt to play a game with it, and also the more points you will earn. Unlike other pet simulators, there's no risk of your little pets becoming dissatisfied with the level of care you provide them: if you choose not to brush or feed it, it won't be able to catch a frisbee to save its life, but it's not like it'll run away or show any emotion other than happiness.
Besides your pet, there are four different items to tap in the Pet Shop. The Ton O' Fun Trunk to the left is where you'll play frisbee with your new puppy pal. Just like the treat, tap the frisbee icon and drag your stylus into a flick to throw it onto the screen for him to catch. If the Pet-O-Meter is low he'll miss it, but if it's high he'll usually catch it no problem, and most of the time he'll perform some kind of trick to amuse you while doing so. Tap the 'game' icon in the lower left-hand corner to play the Ring Fling game, where the object is to flick the frisbee toward different rings as they pop up onto the screen. The top screen displays your time limit as well as how many goals you need to progress to the next level of the game, which slowly gets harder and harder, but also nets you more and more points. If you want to unlock the other two pets quickly, Ring Fling is the way to go. Pause the game at any time by tapping the 'pause' icon at the bottom right of the screen, and when you're done with the minigame, tap the arrow icon in the same location to exit, saving the game in progress. If you turn off the DSi before exiting out to the Pet Shop, you'll lose any points you just earned.
Next is the big iPaws Stereo, where you'll play the Great Grooves game. Tap it to bring up a list of pet-themed songs your pet will dance to as you trace patterns on your screen with the stylus. Continue tracing patterns as perfectly as you can until the song runs out (each song lasts about a minute or so). Each pattern completed makes your pet perform a cute little dance move as well as earns you points, and if you reach the goal outlined on the top screen, you'll unlock the next song, with six songs in all.
At the top right of the Pet Shop screen is a giant purple wardrobe. In here, you can dress up your chosen pet however you like. Choose from an array of hats, glasses, collars, and shirts, most of which you'll unlock by playing Ring Fling and Great Grooves, and your pet will be dolled up accordingly (whatever outfit you choose for your pet here will be reflected in the rest of the game as well); if you'd like to remove an item of clothing, first tap that particular item's icon to the left and then the 'no' symbol at the bottom of the screen. Tap 'game' to play the Style to Remember game, a simple memory challenge where your pet is first shown for a few seconds wearing a certain combination of clothing and accessories and then afterward you must copy the outfit on your own. When you think you've got it, tap the check mark icon to submit your guess, and if you got everything right, you'll earn points and move on to the next level. Each level gradually becomes harder, and if you've already unlocked a lot of clothing with the other minigames the extra available clothing makes the game a little more challenging.
Finally, between the Stereo and the Wardrobe on the Pet Shop screen is a little yellow door with a paw-print on it. Tap the door to bring up a screen featuring the three pets you've unlocked (or, if you haven't unlocked the others yet, how many points you need to do so), and if you'd like to switch between them, tap the icon of whichever one you'd like to play with. You may also rename your pets at any time by tapping their names on this screen. Once you reach 15,000 points, you unlock pet #838, a purple bunny-rabbit, and at 35,000 points you'll unlock pet #1331, a pink pony. All three pets share the same Stereo and Wardrobe, so any song or item of clothing you unlock with one pet will be available for both of the others, and though the basic method of play is the same in the Ton O' Fun Trunk and Ring Fling, the bunny uses a big hoop and the horse uses a horseshoe. The bunny and horse both eat carrots instead of dog treats, and all three of them perform different adorable tricks, but you always start a new game with the puppy. With a game this generic, it might have been nice to have had the choice between the three characters to start with at the beginning and then unlock the other two afterward, just in case someone really, really wanted a pony instead of a puppy. Though it's doubtful you'll ever need to do so, tapping 'New Game' on the main menu will erase your saved game information and allow you to start over.
Where the Littlest Pet Shop is concerned, the graphics are excellent. EA did a great job capturing the look and feel of the pets and their quirky little environment, but then they've had a lot of practice. Any fan of the line of toys will be thrilled to see that nothing has changed visually: the pets are all animated smoothly and do their best to win your heart with their big eyes and adorable tricks. The music is pretty generic; while it's not the greatest ever, it fits the environment, being peppy when it needs to be and laid-back when it's time to chill. The little tracks in the iPaws Stereo mimic country, rock, pop and techno without losing the cutesy, pet-oriented feel. Sound effects, like the music, fit the theme well, and as for the pets themselves, they each only make one noise aside from eating - a bark, some kind of bunny noise, and a high-pitched whinny - but the noises are used sparingly and never really become annoying.
With only three different mini-games to play and no real challenge in taking care of your little pets, from an adult perspective this game gets old very quickly. The three latest retail releases alone each featured up to twenty pets and far more minigames than the three seen here, so if your child already owns one of the cartridges, they'll want to skip this one too. Young girls may enjoy this iteration of the series for a while if they've never played any of the other games, but it's hard to see them sticking with it for very long after having unlocked all three pets, especially if they're not really Littlest Pet Shop fans to begin with. In short, there's just not enough here to keep anyone occupied for long, so unless you or your child are super-fans of the Littlest Pet Shop series, save your 800 points and avoid this one.