Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-12-18 Nintendo DS Simulation E (Everyone) MTO / Ubisoft

Virgin Interactive Entertainment published the first Dogz game back in the fall of 1995. In the game's 11-year history, various versions have been released for not only the PC, but for the GBC and GBA as well. Now, in the fall of 2006, Dogz has expanded to the next level of interactivity: the Nintendo DS.

Being at the forefront of the Petz universe, a lot of pressure has been placed on the backs of these innocent little canines, who have in turn rose to the challenge and delivered a cute and charming game in the process.

The story itself is very straightforward. You play yourself, albeit in child form, as you are anxiously awaiting the day when you are allowed to get your first puppy. When that day arrives, you have to choose from 18 breeds, ranging from Chihuahuas to Golden Retrievers, with many sizes and colors of breeds in between.

Each dog comes with its own personality, and you are given the opportunity to play with the dog for a bit, to see if it's the right fit. In my case, I have always loved Pomeranians, so I chose a boy and named him PeeGee. Upon choosing your puppy, the scenario truly begins, where you are given a 30-day goal of creating a bond and friendship with the puppy, as well as raising his training level and overall well-being.

After returning home with your new bundle of joy, you are given a quick rundown of your responsibilities. You are in charge of feeding, bathing, walking, cleaning up after, and training your puppy. But it's not all work and no fun, as you are given many opportunities to play with your puppy as well.

If at any time you don't know what to do, you can check the PC in the dining room for some helpful hints. The game will tell you when your puppy is hungry or thirsty, so there's no fear of letting him/her get sick, and the basic care and training of your puppy are pretty self-explanatory.

To begin with, the only things you can teach your puppy are basic commands like "sit" and "lay down". There is no rhyme or reason as to why or when your puppy will learn a new command. They may get it right four or five times in a row only to miss it the next three. You are given a heart after every step in the training process is complete and only after reaching five hearts will your puppy perform the move without fail.

After your puppy learns the basic commands, more tricks like "sit up", "circle" and "jump" are added, each with a higher difficulty level. As incentive to train your dog, you are given presents from your parents after each move is learned, and are also given the chance to compete in dog contests at the local pet shop, where you can show off your puppy's skills.

The first week of your thirty days will be the most tedious, as these are the times when your puppy is still getting used to you and its name, and may not listen to your commands as well as he eventually will. Also, during the first week, your puppy has not yet received his vaccinations, so you are not allowed to take him for walks either.

This time stuck indoors is a great chance to take advantage of the game's mic support. Simply press the L button and the mic is activated, allowing you to call your puppy by its name and actually see and hear it respond. While this may be an unneeded touch for the older generations, just imagine how excited this feature would make a child!

After visiting with the vet over the first weekend, the adventure really picks up, as you are allowed to (and in fact are made to) take your dog for a walk, where it can meet other puppies down the street, or compete in races at the park. After making friends with other puppies, your mother will plan parties to take place on Sundays where every dog you've met will come over and play. Another reason to take a walk is the fact that your mother gives you a bit of allowance money everyday, which enables you to buy an item at the pet shop.

There are 147 items in all, and even after the 30 days are complete, I highly doubt you will be anywhere close to the total, which makes playing after the month is over more worthwhile. The items can be toys, leashes, food, and even decorations for your room. Dogs love change, and respond well to new items, so change up your curtains, wallpaper and furniture frequently to please your furry companion.

The only downside to the entire Dogz process is the fact that you can easily have all of the training done in less than fifteen days (each day takes about 7-8 minutes of real time), which leaves you with tons of spare time to try to fill. These sections, when your dog is not hungry and has been taken care of, tend to be quite boring, and even I found myself repeatedly walking in and out of rooms just to make the time pass faster. Luckily, the rest of the game is so darn cute than the boring moments can be looked past.

As extras, you are given a camera with which to take shots of you and your puppy together, as well as a diary in which you can write down the accomplishments of the day. After you complete the 30-day scenario, two more save spots open up on the main menu, so that you may adopt another puppy without losing the work you've put in on the first. Your character is also given multiple colors of clothes to choose from, so you can change everyday if you feel like, to give the game a more realistic feel.

As far as the looks of the game are concerned, the puppies are so adorable that you'll probably find it hard to pick the best breed. The overall graphics are as close to 3D as you're going to get on the DS while still maintaining their cartoon-ish quality, and the angle at which the rooms are set is very reminiscent of the MegaMan Battle Network series, with the rooms being shown on the diagonal.

As for the sounds, you are given the basic beeps and dings for when you or your dog does something right, and the background music is very peppy and energetic, to match the energy your puppies possess. The puppies themselves bark and whine when they want your attention or when they are sad, and the sounds are close enough to the real thing to draw in even the youngest gamer.

Even after looking past its seemingly repetitive tendencies, it's not hard to see why the Petz universe has been so successful over the past decade. Dogz is a perfect game for those longing for a puppy of their own that may not have the financial or spatial ability to have one. And with 18 breeds to choose from, each of which act and grow differently, there is no doubting the game's replayability. Dogz truly offers something for everyone, and it would be a shame to pass this up.

Special thanks to Katherine Lollar and Ubisoft for providing a copy of this title.