Monday, June 3

Review: Little Friends - Dogs and Cats [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While Nintendo has released some interesting games at different points in their history that have generally met with success there’s been a degree of disappointment for some fans who’ve held out hope to see them return but remain unannounced. Certainly this has opened the door to savvy indie developers to look for ways to fill the gaps and these efforts have been met with varying degrees of success. One such franchise that I know is beloved by a fair number of people is Nintendogs, a first-party pet simulator that made excellent use of the Nintendo DS touchscreen to give the experience a uniqiue tactile feel. Heeding the call we now have Little Friends: Dogs and Cats, which practically feels like criminal carbon copy of that title. The question is whether its cuteness and novel pet interactions are enough to make it worth your time.


Starting with the positive there’s no doubt the game nails it in the looks department. Your pets look quite wonderful and furry, and are even pretty expressive for the most part. The array of clothing and accessories you’re able to unlock in the game with some time and effort is also impressive and allow you to give your pooches and felines a variety of signature looks. For fans of the original games there’s also a strong sense of nostalgia to the experience, as the general care for your pet is very familiar. A few things like walking your dog have even gotten a bit of an upgrade, with you walking a path and trying to guide them towards balloons that point out goodie boxes that have rewards in them.


Unfortunately there are also some serious caveats to go with that initial excitement. Some elements that helped give Nintendogs its quirky charm and extended playability are completely gone. Obviously since the Switch lacks a microphone or even a camera the means for giving your pet commands have been crippled a bit, making an obedience trial an impossibility. The omission that made me even more sad is that there’s no agility trial, possibly tied to the complications of needing to figure out how to support that both with a touchscreen and controller support. Whatever the reasons bigger fans of the franchise will quickly begin to feel the pain of how much was left on the cutting room floor while also likely noticing that there’s nothing of substance that has been added in its place. It seems the hook to keep you playing is just the ability to unlock new outfits and accessories after a while but that’s not a great motivator for extended investment.


Even my oldest daughter, who adored Nintendogs and was eager to see what would come of this title ended up being disappointed with this outing and lost interest within the first few hours. Though the voice commands were always wonky they still gave the game some interactive charm. While mastering the mini game-esque events like the agility trial didn’t take a Herculean effort it was still cute and fun, but not only is it gone but there’s nothing offered to take its place either. Perhaps the demographic that should most likely avoid this title will be the very people you’d think it is intended for. Fans of the original game who’ll likely be let down by everything this title isn’t rather than focusing on the simple joys it offers. Still, I could see where a new younger generation could have a good time with this since they wouldn’t have any built-in expectations to come up short with.

Score: 5.5

Pros:
  • There’s no doubt the game’s pets are cute
  • For fans of the original there’s a rush of nostalgia at first
  • Younger gamers may still enjoy the game’s simplicity and virtual pet care elements

Cons:
  • Can’t offer key elements of the original experience and, worse, doesn’t offer anything of substance in their place
  • The gap in time from the original game’s release has seen expectations for interactivity and originality evolve and this is stuck in the past straight-up emulating the original title pretty much
  • There’s simply nothing compelling to keep you coming back unless you really like unlocking new clothing and accessories
  • All things considered the initial asking price is far too high