Nintendo's dual-screened line of systems has been finding itself the home for four-legged friends since the release of Nintendogs on the original Nintendo DS. Since then, plenty of other caretaking games have shown up mewing on their doorsteps - you let one into your life and next thing you know your home looks like a humane shelter.
Pet Inn 3D for the 3DS is the latest animal care game to be adopted. It doesn't know many snazzy tricks, but it's far from the mangiest mongrel we've seen.
As owner of the town's newest pet retreat, players must entertain canine and feline guests with mini-games in order to earn experience and unlock new mini-games. There's a little bit of a story involved with the owner of the nearby rival pet inn initially looking down on your rookie efforts, but you'll show her who's the better puppy petter. Oh, yes. You'll show them all!
The dozen or so mini-games are simple, stylus-based tasks. These include the usual stable of rubbing over a pet with a brush, swiping in different directions to teach tricks, and tapping to successfully jump rope. Some mini-games are delegated only to cats or dogs, which makes sense if you've ever tried to make a cat run an agility course. Overall, there is very little challenge in these games, but younger players might appreciate that. There is one game where you swat poop balls around with a broom, however, and that is satisfying regardless of age.
Performance in each game is rated with up to three stars. Once you've played a few games with a pet, you can release that guest and the stars are converted into experience points. Accept new pets, play with them, release, repeat. While leveling up continues the story and unlocks new mini-games, there isn't much else in sense of progression. There's no customization of the inn, and the games begin to feel repetitive unless played in short bursts.
Pet Inn 3D does look and sound nice, with colourful environments and a variety of pleasant music. The dogs and cats don't come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and unfortunately don't express a whole lot in the way of personalities, but they do move pretty fluidly and look rather alive. That's better than can be said for some other titles. The 3D element of the game is also nicely pulled off, with the sole exception of a "slobber effect" that makes it look like an all-out assault on the screen when a pet is licking you or eating. They can't possibly have saliva glands that powerful.
Anyone expecting more sim-like features such as keeping track of materials or pets' preferences will not find them here. The "inn" part is barebones simple, with all you really have to worry about being meeting new pets in the foyer. Even this is something you don't actually have to do until you want to. There doesn't seem to be any penalty except for the consistent bell-ringing reminder you receive.
Pet Inn 3D doesn't have much at all to interest experienced players, but its lighter substance might be appealing to young audiences who want to spend some time with critters and not have to worry about any sort of failure. For those seeking more, there's Nintendogs ...and real dogs.