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DS hands on: Nintendogs

Nintendogs will either fill your heart with liquid fluffiness or trigger a violent extrusion of chunks - or both, at the same time. Yes, once the wet nose of the game, called Puppy Times in the US, nuzzles into your hands, you'll know that this uber-cute title is quite unlike anything else around.

Taking place in one almost completely blank room, the game gives you three pedigree chums to raise, train and play with.

Using the stylus and the touch screen along with a few on-screen menus, you can interact with the trio of fluffy terrors, teaching them tricks and rewarding their delightful doggie behaviour.

To make friends with these mutts all you need to do is touch the hand icon on the lower screen, then stroke or pat one of the three pups and he (or she) will respond with an adorable wiggle or, if he really likes it, by rolling over.

The demo version of the game we played still didn't have all of its features in place so the only items in our terrier-friendly toy-box were a football, a tennis ball, a skipping rope, a frisbee and a blanket. But with a flick of the stick any of these items could be lobbed into the canines' chamber for the dogs to play with.

For about five minutes it was fun to just bounce the ball for them, tickle their ears or watch them wag their little tails. But once the novelty had started to wear off and the bile was on the rise, it did seem to get a little dull.

Except there is a reason for teaching your pups to fetch the ball or fight for the blanket, and it arrives in the various mini-games. So while our limited demonstration of the game only had one option - a frisbee contest - it still showed how training a pup and then pitting him against your mate's mutt would work.

After a few moments of lobbing the flying disc around the room, we were challenged by a DS-controlled player to pick our best puppy and come to the chucking contest. Then, by sliding the stylus across the screen, we had to launch the hovering circle across a stadium and send the puppy out to nab it; with points awarded for distance and style.

Sadly, once we had won the contest the demonstration was over and we never found out if there was a way to spend the points gained or trophies collected, perhaps by expanding the dogs' skills or kitting out their home with toys and treats.

We also didn't have the chance to test how the puppies can be trained to respond to vocal commands through a combination of the background noise of the packed hall and the fact that this Japanese version of the game was waiting for Osaka-accented orders and not our anglicised bark.

No one from Nintendo would confirm any kind of British release date for the game but with the Japanese version appearing to be set for April, hopefully we won't be waiting too long.

Nintendogs will be released for the DS later in the year

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