Pet Pals: Animal Doctor
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-01-17 Wii Simulation E10 (Everyone 10+) Legacy Interactive

Pet Pals: Animal Doctor is a vet sim, originally released for the PC, and now available for the Wii.

You play as a newly arrived veterinarian at a clinic. The game is presented from a first-person point of view where you go about your daily activities as if you were a real veterinarian.

After being briefed and meeting the team that will help you take care of your soon to be patients, you are placed behind the counter of the waiting room.

Sitting on the chairs will be your six rounds of patients and their owners, with pets ranging from dogs to cats, birds, mice, rabbits, spiders, fish and reptiles. You can point and click once on each animal to view a summary of the reason why the pet was brought in. A chart will show you the symptoms and health-related issues the creature may have.You can treat them in any order you'd like, since there is no classification for serious or critical conditions. Clicking on it again will bring you and the pet into the examination room. A cutscene will brief you on the animal's condition.

You will have several medical tools at your disposal for the examination. The process works similarly to Trauma Center, but you must work around the animal in a 3D setting instead of the 2D view. I found this process more dynamic than clicking static images in the PC version. To look around, you use the Nunchuk, and you can actually walk around the room by pressing Z while you move the analog stick. At this point I thought, "this is actually pretty cool".

But the examination and treatment process controls weren't as cool as I thought.

There is always a specific way to proceed in any given case, and if you have played the PC version of Pet Pals, you already know that. But this Wii version introduces a timer, which means that those who aren't aware of how things work will grow frustrated from seeing that timer run out without having treated the animal. And even if you do know the procedures well enough, you might find yourself struggling with the controls.

The camera angles are jerky and examining small areas becomes tricky. And if you're thinking you're actually looking for visible differences, think again. Your indicator that there is something in a particular area is something that initially, I thought was a graphical error: a blue spot appeared where the ailment should be.

In another case, visible growths are seen along a dog's body. Unfortunately, and as obvious as the ailment seems, you won't proceed until you have examined the dog's head with a magnifying glass, only to find out that he has a hard time standing up. You will only be allowed to examine the growths after that piece of enlightenment. Sounds pretty illogical to me. Fortunately, you can always ask the vet technicians for help when you feel stuck or disoriented.

Each tool is used by performing a "mini-game". This means making some specific gestures with the Wii-mote, but nothing overly creative there.

In the Recovery Room you can groom, feed and play with the animals that are presently staying at the clinic. Not particularly engrossing, but brushing, bathing or playing catch with a pet is a break from the seriousness and frustrations of the main gameplay. And the controls actually work better here too.

As for the presentation, the animal renders are quite nice to look at, but the human models seem too weird in comparison and lack animation. In some cases during the examination there were slowdowns, and even the shadows cast on things seemed to be off. While the voice acting in the PC version was fantastic, that is not the case here. The actors only manage to come across as ridiculous and annoying. Or maybe ridiculously annoying.

While at last year's E3 Pet Pals: Animal Doctor seemed like a promising game with some good concepts, it's clear to me that it should have been under development longer. The controls definitely needed improvement, the graphical aspect is a mixed bag and the sound is forgettable.

I definitely recommend sticking to the PC version.

Special thanks to Lauren B. Tascan and Legacy Interactive for providing a copy of this title.