You've got to feel sorry for the creators of the Petz series - all those years spent producing endless pet sims, only for Nintendo to go and nick the idea, do it a whole lot better and make a million billion pounds in the process.
So you can't blame them for attempting to cash in on the Nintendogs craze by releasing Dogz for the GBA, really. But what you can blame them for is releasing what's nothing more than an utterly repetitive, totally unchallenging and ultimately charmless game.
It all begins with a visit to your local pet shop, where you get to choose your new puppy. This involves answering a series of simple questions (you can choose a male or female, relaxed or energetic, and large or small dog) and then picking one of 18 different breeds.
Then you take your new pup home and set about training it to become a good doggy - which is where the fun fails to set in. Your first task is to teach your puppy its name, and this is a matter of pressing the A button. Naturally your dog won't understand what you're on about at first, so you'll need to press the button again, and again, and again, until the question mark over its head turns into an exclamation mark. The end.
Things do get relatively more complicated when you try to teach the dog to sit. This time, as well as pressing the A button to issue the command, you can choose to praise or scold your puppy depending on whether it did what you asked. The novelty wears off rather quickly, particularly since puppies seem to forget the tricks they've just learned with alarming regularity.
As a result, training your pet is a tedious experience - as are pretty much all the other tasks you're given. Feeding your dog, for example, involves pressing the A button whilst standing next to the food cupboard. Cleaning up its excrement is a matter of standing next to said excrement and pressing the A button. Hoovering up bits of litter which mysteriously appears in the house from time to time is a matter of getting the vacuum out, by pressing the A button, and then... you guessed it.
What's more, you can't even get on with all these tiresome tasks without being continually interrupted by your blathering parents, who will insist that you join them for breakfast or dinner (during which they will come out with exactly the same lines they came out with yesterday), or go to bed, or go to school (cue the exact same cutscene you've seen before).
As the game progresses, you do get to take your dog for walks, visit more shops, collect new items and so on. But none of this is enough to relieve the general boredom, or to make you forget that you could be playing a much better puppy sim instead.
That said, it's not fair to offer a direct comparison between Dogz and Nintendogs. The elements which made Nintendo's effort so charming - such as the ability to interact with your puppy on the touch screen and teach it tricks via the microphone - just aren't possible on the GBA.
But surely they could have come up with something more innovative than "press the A button"? What about a few more mini-games, for example - as fun as "Puppy Reversi" is, it's hardly gripping after your seventh go. And surely they could have at least bothered to make characters come out with different lines of dialogue, rather than making you skip through the same conversations over and over again. That A button will be worn down to nothing by the time you're done.
All in all, Dogz isn't just a poor man's Nintendogs - it's a fundamentally rubbish game, regardless of the competition. Put simply, there's just not enough to do, and it's so repetitive that it's hard to see how even very young children could be entertained for more than half an hour or so. A game this shallow and lazily designed deserves nothing more than to be slung in a bag full of bricks and chucked in the river. Avoid.
Children's titles are rated out of five to differentiate them from the standard Eurogamer scoring system.
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