Lure Coursing, meanwhile, is a basic mini-game where you wind a lure with the stylus to tempt your pup across an obstacle course, and there's also a self-explanatory frisbee competition. They start off simple, but there are five difficulty levels that will take at least a couple of weeks to get through. Working your way through them is the only way to earn money for more stuff, so you'll need to practice fetch in the park or head to the gym for agility training whilst out on walks.
After a while you'll be able to afford a second pet – you can have up to three at a time – at which point you finally have the option to own a cat. The bad news for cat people is that the kittens in Nintendogs + Cats are strictly a sideshow. You can't teach them tricks, or take them out on walks, or enter them in competitions. They don't even bother responding to their names. I spent days saving up Albert's meagre competition winnings to afford a kitten, and then she basically ignored me, inevitably choosing to sun herself on the windowsill rather than play with any of the things I tempted her with. (This is, of course, entirely realistic.)
There's no sense of obligation to Nintendogs, which is definitely a good thing, but then there's no sense of purpose either. You can only enter each competition twice per day, which means that you can only really play for about 40 minutes a day before you run out of things to do. It's obviously not a game designed for intensive hours-long sessions, but it doesn't do quite enough to sustain your interest beyond the first week or so.
In previous Nintendogs games, for instance, you could find random presents whilst out on walks. These remain in Nintendogs + Cats, but instead of new items you get junk like sticks and plastic bottles, which can eventually be traded in for toys. It's much less immediately rewarding. Without that element of random chance, Nintendogs + Cats doesn't have the Animal Crossing-esque collector's compulsiveness of its predecessor.
It does have some super comedy hats and wigs, though. And as someone who was once a nine-year-old girl, I understand that there's a large section of Nintendogs' audience for whom the slim entertainment pickings on offer will be entirely sufficient. Who cares if it doesn't really go anywhere when it's this lovable right from the off?
Nintendogs + Cats is gentle, sweet, calming and very, very slight. It does what it sets out to do with perfect efficiency, targeting the brain's fragile cuteness receptors with merciless precision. It is a game constructed of gentle routine punctuated by organic, unexpected moments, never demanding much from you in return for its simple, innocent pleasures. It's exactly what you expect, then – but that's certainly no bad thing.
7 / 10