It was only a matter of time before someone took the idea of the Petz genre and used it for the powers of non-child oriented, non-fun, “educationally applicable” mediocre slosh. Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer on DS fits this bill and comes out just in time to not be purchased and then to be completely forgotten before all the big fall releases this year. It’s about using the famous Cesar Millan’s dog training techniques to rehabilitate problem dogs and build a reputation of your own. Trust us; it is as boring as it sounds.
The mechanics are easy enough. An owner brings you their dog and while you watch it walk around the room they describe what the dog is doing that worries them. You then have to identify if its hyperactivity, obsession/fixation, fears, or separation anxiety that is causing the problem. After you figure it out, Cesar will ask you a few questions to get you into the right frame of mind to “project a calm, assertive energy”. The problem here is that you don’t really know some of the answers unless A) you’re a dog whisperer, or B) you go digging through the catalogue of information (not so cleverly) dubbed the Cesarpedia. Great in theory, but not in practice. It feels aggravating to dig for an answer when it just keeps giving you questions until you get it right anyway. Besides that, there are only a few questions in the game, so you will have the answers memorized by the first set of dogs. After wading through the annoying question phase you’re ready for the training.
You may feel you are prepared for the game by now, but you have only had a taste. This is where the game, though it hasn’t taken off or done anything well yet, is at it worst. No matter what the problem is with the dog, you only have five different exercises to train them with. Walking and rollerblading are in the exercise category and are effectively the same things where you either make the dog stay pace with you or you with him. The discipline section has fear and obsessive/fixation training where you’re walking the dog toward a source of fear or you are making them behave and sit when it comes to the source of their fixation. The last two activities you have are in the affection category, which are play time and feeding. Play time is just a half-assed fetch activity. What doesn’t make sense here is that play time has no bearing on the actual training itself.
It’s just something you have to do because technically a real trainer would do it; It becomes another example of lame play where you feel obligated to throw a Frisbee or ball a couple of times before skipping to the next task. Feeding is last on the list and just as aggravating as any of the other activities; scooping food then putting it on the floor in front of the dog and correcting it if it s getting too dominant. After you have “rehabilitated” the dog, you have a multiple choice question as to what homework to give the owners to make sure the dog stays well behaved. For this test, you only get one chance get it right, but you won’t really care if you miss it anyways because you just want to be done with it.
All these things may seem like they would deliver some sort of interesting or enjoyable game play, but this game is as shallow as a Pooper Scooper. You receive a score for however well you did and are given medals that earn you bonus awards that- well they don’t do anything. Not only that, but it’s hard to tell what the scoring is based on because it doesn’t give you the parameters for success. So even if you feel you did well with time and behavior, you still might fall short for no particular reason. It’s a dull game that will disappoint even the most avid fans of the show.
Performing the same activities over and over again until Cesar tells you that the dog has been rehabilitated, it becomes a challenge just to keep from stomping the game cartridge. Then you get another dog, which may or may not have the same problem as the last dog. Then you do it all over again. That’s it. It feels unrewarding and annoying just dealing with the virtual pets even when you’re just trying to get through the tutorials. The graphics deliver nothing as you stare at the same room, backyard and walking street, the entire game. The best looking pictures in the game are the five or six pictures of Cesar with dogs on the top screen during the mini-games. The midi music and sound doesn’t fair any better with the constant “SSHHH” you issue the dog through every session, whether it’s for encouragement or to correct the canine.
It seems everyone is trying to make a game based on a show or movie, even when it’s obvious that it would be a failure. And while Cesar Millan is a great trainer, this game is simply a waste of DS battery life. Take everything that could possibly be entertaining from the Nintendogz games and you might get a picture of what this game is like, because nothing in this game makes it worth playing. The $29.99 price tag is offensive and someone needs to be whacked on the nose with a rolled up newspaper for trying to rob dog lovers of their money. Please doctor; just put this game out of its misery.