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Nintendogs + Cats hands-on

We seriously doubt that most “core” gamers are getting too terribly excited over Nintendogs + Cats, but there’s no doubt that the game will help spur 3DS purchases among the same crowd that loves digging out their Kindles and iPads wherever they go. You know, the ones that just spent a bundle on the hottest tech toy and just have to show it off to wowed onlookers. And to that end, Nintendogs + Cats is sure to please.

During our brief demo of Nintendogs + Cats, we were able to spend some time playing with our new furry friends. After selecting our dog and cat types, we were taken to a room where we were able to pet and play to our heart’s content – well, at least until our allotted time was up, anyway. Using the stylus, we could call our pets to us, give them rubs and scratches, play dress-up with various collectible items, and throw toys for them to play fetch with.

While we’re sure that the game will include elements of the original Nintendogs, like walks, training exercises, pet shows and so forth, the demo kept things simple by just showing off core pet interactions. The 3D elements didn’t seem to add too much to the experience – while the depth display was a nice touch during the “play fetch” sequences, it really just added an extra bit of visual flair, rather than augmenting the gameplay in a meaningful fashion. Of course, with the added processing power of the 3DS, the animals themselves look a lot more detailed – and, more importantly, a lot more cute.

The thing that bothered us most about the game, however, was the behavior of the cats. Any animal lover can tell you that dogs and cats exhibit very different patterns of behavior – they react differently when approached and petted, and play with their toys in a very different manner. For the most part, the cats in Nintendogs + Cats seemed like they used a very slightly altered version of the dogs’ AI – they would start pawing at you when you pet them, and chase after thrown toys in the same ways as the dogs. We realize that this was probably done to make them easier and more fun to interact with (real cats don’t give you the time of day if they don’t feel like it) but it’s irritating to see so little distinction between the two types of animals.

So is Nintendogs + Cats worth looking at if you’re a hardcore gamer? From our short time with it, it doesn’t feel like a must-have – it felt way too similar to the original, and didn’t seem to make use of the 3D elements in an interesting way. But if you have a significant other with a love of cute, cuddly critters, you’ll no doubt be using this title as a bargaining chip to justify the purchase of new hardware.

Jan 11, 2011