It’s a dog’s life, after all. In this release from Frontier and Hip Games you play a dog, and that means doing what a dog does. And what does a dog do? Well, apparently they traverse vast distances to thwart dog nappers and get their favorite gal dog back. You play as Jake, a rambuncious dog with an appetite for adventure. You can wander this huge gameworld freely, taking tasks and solving puzzles at will. Solving said puzzles will give you the ability to control other dogs which can do things that Jake can’t. First though, let’s take a good look at the game.
The first thought in your head when you boot this up will be ‘What the…’. This game isn’t a visual marvel by any means, but it has a quirky charm that will ensnare you. It reminds me greatly of the first Jak and Daxter. You can almost hear someone saying, ‘If you’ll scare those crows away, I’ll give you a Power Cell!’ Jake is animated beautifully, moving just as a dog would. Jake has the unique ability to see the world in smells. This first person smell-o-vision is where you’ll spend most of your time. You’ll be able to see who has a Bone (the ‘Power Cells’ of Dog’s Life) as well as a number of colored smells. If you collect all of the smells in a particular area, you get to compete with the local dog. Should you win you get to control that dog at any time for one minute. Some dogs are smaller and can fit through areas like broken glass panes and doggy doors, while others swim better or can intimidate people into giving up their bone.
Playing as a dog isn’t as complicated as you might think. For one, the jump system seems to be well integrated with the gameplay. It almost seems that some of the jumps are pre-scripted to work just right. You can also bark at just about anything, scaring chickens and postal workers alike. Also, you have a pickup option, to grab things like balls, bones, eggs, or even chickens and cats in your mouth. Once you have them, you can shake them, carry them somewhere, or even throw them (cats fly good).
Now as you may have gathered from my review so far, the game is fairly simplistic, and basically involves alot of minigames to get bones, which improve your standing with other dogs and make you compete better in the minigames. Some, like the digging challenge, are rather easy and others are just weird. Doggy Do is one of my least favorite. In it you perform ‘doggy moves’ – button combinations on the d-pad at anytime to do things like beg, sit, and pee right or left – and try to match the other dog move-for-move. You can learn new tricks this way, but it almost always involves the poo/fart move and I don’t like watching Jake take a dump in the game.
All in all, it’s a simple game for kids or people who want a break from the twitch-fest games of today. It’s relaxing, original, and fun, but it just doesn’t have enough going on consistently to be totally engrossing.