Littlest Pet Shop: Friends
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-11-23 Wii Mini-games E (Everyone) EA

By now, it's expected that when one Littlest Pet Shop game releases, it will be accompanied by a few more. In this case, Littlest Pet Shop: Friends is represented by four titles - three versions on the DS that focus on one particular geographical area (Country, City, and Beach), and an all-encompassing Wii version. As anyone who has played the previous games might expect, the Wii version differs from its DS counterparts mostly in the addition of motion controls and variety of pets available to unlock.

After playing two of the four installments, it's safe to say they all share the same story (which is unfortunate, since it's wholly uninteresting): A bear and a caterpillar are best friends. The bear moves into the country, where he meets some dogs, cats, birds, horses, and other critters. All of the pets wish to welcome the bear and the caterpillar to the neighborhood by throwing a surprise party, including decorations, food, and other assorted goodies that you must help the animals find and/or create.

As with the DS installments, the game plays out in an incredibly linear fashion. You are guided through the shallow storyline by a tutorial system that tells you what buttons to press and when (use the nunchuck to move your animals around the environment - it should be noted that your pets' movements are agonizingly slow - press A to perform actions and B to switch between active pets), what buildings to enter and what to do once you do so, completely limiting the player freedom present in previous Littlest Pet Shop games.

Your progress sees you collecting items for the surprise party by playing in mini-games, with there being some noteworthy differences between the DS and Wii versions of these games, aside from the addition of motion controls. For instance, in LPSF: Country, the ice cream collection game had you stacking as many like colored scoops on each cone as possible, but here, you're asked to catch falling scoops of ice cream in a particular pattern, based on the order of incoming customers.

Also, the cake baking game, which is a simplistic take on Cake Mania, now takes much longer to complete, as it allows for more time to finish each customer's order (match the correct cake color, icing color, and decoration), presumably because you are having to use the Wii Remote to point at items on either side of what may be a very large television screen, as opposed to the DS's small touch screen.

Other than that, the games are still fairly basic, and mostly uninteresting. There's a take on the "which cup is the ball under" game, a version of Skee-ball made disappointing by lackluster control responsiveness, a fortune telling "game" that asks you to wave your Wii Remote over a "Pet Possibilities" ball, a gardening game and more. While I am not denying that my age is probably a factor in my lessened enthusiasm with the mini-games available here, I have no problem admitting that the first set of LPS titles, when compared to other children's titles, was fairly enjoyable, regardless of the age of their target audience. Friends, however, simply can't compete in the bulk of what it offers.

While the main focus of Friends is arguably the participation in said mini-games, there are a few new collection based tasks available as well. Flowers, balloons, feathers, apples and other goodies can be collected by various pets (flying pets collect the floating feathers, horses can kick tree stumps, releasing fruit, dogs dig up hidden gems, etc.), and then used to create new accessories or food items which your pets can interact with, or use for the party.

This allows for some of the only true freedom-of-choice available in the game, aside from being able to name each pet in the first place. By collecting a certain number of each colored flower, for example, you can mix them to create new colors that can be used in the future when buying new accessories. Instead of being stuck with a standard template, you can now change the patterns and color schemes of sunglasses, t-shirts, hats and so on.

Graphically, the game is fairly unchanged from its Wii predecessor, and retains the "adorable" factor in its inclusion of bright colors, soft lines, and frilly architectural designs. However, the sound department takes a bit hit with the fact that the storyline carries out through text-based dialogue segments, which are accompanied by downright annoying animal sound effects. The peacock's voice in particular can be equated to nails running down a chalkboard - it's that torturous.

While I appreciate the changes EA tried to implement in not employing a standard copy-and-paste strategy when releasing the next line of installments in its toy-to-game franchise, I'm still forced to say the same thing for Friends on the Wii as I did for Country on the DS: If you have a Littlest Pet Shop fan in the family, stick with one of the original titles, or prepare to deal with their inevitable disappointment.

Special thanks to Lilit Baron and EA for providing a copy of this title.