As a parent of two young boys and Living in London there is one thing I don’t need in my life, pets. I already get dribbled on and we do plenty of walking and playing at the park so I don’t really need a hairy version to look after too. They are both at an age where they see a dog in the park and ask…
“Can we have a dog?”
“Not enough room/you two are enough to look after/because I said so”
*repeat for infinity*
Thankfully Sony have come to my rescue with their latest Vita release, PlayStation Pets. Would it be enough to quench the children’s thirst for their own dog, or would it make things worse for me? Over the next few days I would find out…
As the game begins you enter an adoption centre to be greeted by 4 species of puppies to choose from, they all want you to take them home with you and they are being quite vocal about it. Each dog has its own voice and over 10,000 lines of dialogue have been recorded for the animals, it’s a little but off-putting to have a Husky talk to you in a New York accent but the kids think it’s brilliant so they must be doing something right.
When you have chosen your dog you are taken to your home where you can get to know your pet, you are shown how to navigate the menus and how to interact with your mutt, ours has been named Silver. It’s quite nifty that you can talk to your pet by holding down the right button, and he’ll make the effort to learn his name so you can get his attention. As time goes on you’ll be able to command him to sit, jump and perform tricks.
There is plenty to do inside the house such as play with toys, feed and water your pet and practice new tricks, there is also a shower room to clean up in. You’ll find a trick book that you can eventually teach to your dog but you’ll need to unlock them as the game goes on. There is a store to visit via the TV in the house that will let you buy food, clothing and new toys. As you progress through the game you’ll make money from digging up items in the woods and selling them.
You will come across a story book in the bookshelf that will set you off on an adventure to discover the secrets of Castlewood Island. The Island was ruled by King Rufus and his trusty aide was his dog, Cosmo. Between them they have hidden secrets throughout the Island and it’s up to you to uncover them all. There are statues to find, hidden tunnels to discover and puzzles to solve, but before any of that you’ll need to teach your animal some basic skills before you even leave the garden.
The more you play with your dog the more you’ll build up his skills. One of the first things he’ll begin to learn is to fetch, by using the Vitas touchscreen you can pick up a ball to throw and the dog will oblige by fetching, every time he does so he’ll get a step closer to levelling up. You’ll go on to teach your dog skills in tugging, jumping, fetching, sniffing and Agility. Each skill is upgraded by playing mini-games with the dog, the sniffing game shows you some circles for you dog to sniff at and you have a short amount of time to try and work out where the hidden item is, the tugging skill is improved by playing with a tug toy, you then use your finger to follow a path on the screen while your dog try’s to get the toys from you.
Eventually you’ll get to go out and explore the forest, there will be sticks to throw, areas to sniff out hidden treasures and tunnels that will open up fast travel sections as you open up more of the map. As you reach certain sections in the forest, guided by the Kings journal you’ll have to solve puzzles to help you on your way. The puzzles are pretty easy (it’s aimed at children after all) and as you solve them you’ll unlock more areas of the map to complete your adventure. There is a scrapbook to complete for the completionists out there, detailing everything you have done with your trusty pal, as well as a whole host of stats to pour through, down to which hat is your dog’s favourite.
You’ll have to return home often to water, feed and clean your pet. You buy food and water from the store and pour them into the food and water bowls, you’ll hose them down in the shower room, lather them with shampoo and scrub them with a sponge. When they get bored they’ll hop into their baskets and have a nap too.
I sat my 5-year old down with our Pet husky and showed him the basics, and thanks to the simple control scheme he quickly had the dog performing tricks, he even found an impressive mode which takes advantage of the Vita’s camera, allowing your pet to walk around on any surface, you can play fetch and clean up after him, much to amusement of my lad.
PlayStation Pets takes advantage of handhelds impressive screen, the dogs look lifelike and the environments are vibrant with colour, which will draw most children in. I haven’t come across anything to ruin my experience either, there is the odd time when throwing the ball that the dog doesn’t react to the ball coming back off a wall very well but it’s not something a younger player will notice or care about really. The game does a good job of explaining itself, and makes full use of the touchscreen meaning the little people don’t have to fiddle with too many buttons.
I’m having a much better time with this game than I thought I would, the fact I can sit with my children and watch them play with the dog is fun enough and if they choose to take them out to play through the adventure they’ll continue to have a great time playing, I imagine there is scope in the future for more animals to be introduced, as well as some new modes.
This is a perfect way to get your children into gaming, and now I have a dog in the house without any of the hassle, awesome!
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: PlayStation Vita Release Date: 5rg June 2014
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of PlayStation Pets for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of two days on a PlayStation Vita. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.