Hippo Manchester
September 15, 2005


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by Glenn Given

Nintendogs: Daschound & Friends (Nintendo DS)

Nintendo. Rated E.


Nintendo has never failed to do right with its hand-held offerings (the seizure-inducing Virtual Boy aside). From Tetris on the original Game Boy to Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo has consistently developed intriguing titles even when third-party developers have abandoned them.

When the DS launched in America, critics labeled it a flop both financially and creatively. The dual screens and touch sensitivity were a bit off-putting to consumers and, frankly, were not used to their full potential by developers. But then there came Nintendogs.

A game for girls, pet lovers, simulation lovers or role-playing-game lovers ó Nintendogs  is everything that should never make a game sell. Itís quirky, awkward and bizarre. You need to talk to it, a lot, often in public and frequently in high-pitched cutesy ways.

But, sweet Moses Malone, it is a damn fine game ó so fine that youíre likely to have a two-month wait to get a copy (way to go EB Games!).

The concept, a virtual pet that you care for, play with and train, has been around the block a few times (from that cat that would chase your mouse cursor around to SEGA Dreamcastís legendary talking-fish thing Seaman) with various degrees of success. But on the DS it really feels right.

Your Nintendogs puppy frolics and scampers and tussles with other puppies (either your own or through a wireless connection with another Nintendogs owner). It learns to recognize your voice and obey commands. You can teach it to fetch, to roll over, to run agility courses or compete in flying-disc competitions. You play touch-screen tug of war and blow soap bubbles for your dog to chase (by actually blowing onto the Nintendo!). You feed them and bathe them and brush them and, most of all, you pet them and they respond in a 90 percent cute, 10 percent creepily accurate manner.

Nintendogs combines the cuteness of babies, the addictiveness of heroin and the wonder of high-tech wizardry in one portable package. Many may scoff at the sheer saccharine nature of Nintendogs but, dammit, I got a beagle. His name is Badger. My wife has a Siberian Husky named Peanut and I donít think that there is anything wrong with this.