My Pet Shop
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-03-17 Nintendo DS Simulation E (Everyone) Square Enix / Taito

My Pet Shop was a cute little surprise. I mean, I do like my Nintendogs and Purr Pals after all, so more portable pets... why not?

In My Pet Shop, you and your mom have just moved from the big city to a quieter, smaller place called Green Town. None of the townspeople seems to own a pet, so your mom decides to open a pet shop to fix that situation. It's up to you to hunt for pets, catch them and fulfill the villagers' needs. And while that seems like a fairly short description, there is quite a bit to do in the game.

Your mom will explain to you the basics of pretty much everything. From moving around in town to catching pets, caring for a pet and fulfilling customers' requests, mom knows best!

Moving around Green Town is fairly simple. You can touch the map icon to go to the world map and tap any area to enter it. From there, you use the arrows on the touch screen to slide from one area to the next. Interacting with people or objects is done again by simply tapping. Want to see what someone has to say? Tap him or her. Need to go shopping? Tap the store. Looking to see what's inside that house over there? Tap the door to get in!

Before you can actually have a pet, you must catch one for yourself. Initially, your access is restricted to only a few areas, but more will open up later where you can find a variety of pet species: cats, dogs, rabbits, penguins, even bears and pandas. Moving through the areas is like moving around town, using the arrows. But to search, you "scratch" with the stylus on the different objects in the scene: trees, fruit, bushes, logs, etc. Sometimes you can find hidden items, other times you will encounter an animal and enter the catching game.

The catching game revolves around getting the pet's attention and getting closer without scaring it away. To do this, you can use treats, stay still, step forward or step back. Different pets react differently, but it's usually best not to move forward right away and let them come to you instead.

After you get yourself a pet, you can use it to hunt as well. Using your pet in one of the search areas can reveal where another animal is hiding, while using it during the catching game can help bring the other animal closer (for example, use a dog to attract another dog). You can switch pets at the pet store by selecting any of those you have caught.

Your current pet will be always in your room, which is where you take care of it. To activate the care menu, you simply touch the paw icon and a number of options will open up. Not all are available right away, but as you progress you will be able to bathe, brush, play, give treats, go for a walk, teach tricks and even dress up your pet with all kinds of accessories.

What you do every day is limited by the number of "sunshines" on the top screen. Each sunshine represents one action (such as feeding, bathing, brushing, catching an animal). When all actions for the day have been used, mom lets you know it's time to sleep, and a new day will begin.

You can check what sort of requests you have every day by talking to mom. The townspeople will want specific pets and ask you to hunt them, and those that already have a pet will come over and ask you to take care of it in this or that way. They may ask you to take it for a walk, freshen it up (meaning washing and brushing), give it a treat or make it look nice with some kind of accessory. Pets in your care show as a paw icon in the pet hotel (the counter mom is always behind of), tap it once to check on the pet status, tap it again to go to it and complete the task. Once you have done what the customer asked for, you talk to mom and tap "Finished Tasks" to call the customers and give them their pets back. Your hard work pays off at the end of the day, since you get bonus money aside from your allowance.

Now, as if all this wasn't enough to keep you busy, contests will be taking place at the park. There are three kinds of competitions: Speed, Power and Photo. The Speed contest is just a race, where you cheer (tap the clapping icon) to make your pet run faster. Obviously, the pet with the most stamina has a higher chance of winning, so to increase your pet's stamina, you can walk it, play with it, train it and give it treats.

The Power competition is also based on stamina, but here the goal is to push an item as far as possible within the time limit. The Photo competition is a tricks and fashion contest, so you must teach your pet some tricks and dress it up before you enter, then perform the tricks successfully and pose for the picture.

All contests have three ranks: C (low-ranked), B (middle-ranked) and A (top-ranked). You can attempt the next rank once you have won the previous. Winning a contest also awards you with cute accessories for your pet.

While at first I thought there were way too many menus and massive amounts of text, after the initial "crash-course" by mom everything went smooth. The icons are pretty self-explanatory, and everything is easy to find. Plus, mom is a big help no matter what you may need help with.

Overall, My Pet Shop is a cute and simple game to play, appropriate for children of all ages. Granted, you won't see your regular hardcore gamer sitting on a bus stop playing this, but that's not who this is aimed at in the first place. For the little boys and girls who could use some pet responsibility lessons disguised as a cute and colorful game, or for anyone who likes the genre, really, this is definitely the game to get.

Special thanks to Klee Kuo, Amelia Cantlay and Square Enix for providing a copy of this title.