In 2005, Nintendo created a phenomenon that would later be the launching pad for their insane success of the DS. Nintendog,s was a commercial and critically acclaimed success that some credit for single-handedly put the DS on the map. Now almost two years later, Crave Entertainment has done what most people figured would eventually happen, yet never came to fruition. Purr Pals takes all of the same principles of Nintendogs, and simply changes the palette by replacing puppies with kittens.
The core game revolves around adopting a feline and providing care for it. You have over 40 different breeds to choose from, and you can even customize their fur, eyes, and even whiskers. Once you have designed your kitten (which really resembles a full-grown cat), you will be able to take them home and begin your role as the primary caregiver. Standard actions such as petting, brushing, and interacting are done via the touch screen and stylus. When you perform each action, your cat’s desire for them decreases thus introducing the games first Achilles heel.
Your virtual kitten never seems to be satisfied. Spend time brushing and feeding them and not even ten minutes later their need level rises again. This results in an extremely repetitious experience that detracts from the other aspects of the game. Couple this with the fact that even when your DS is powered off their need rises, and you end up spending more time attending to these needs thus taking away from the core experience.
When you finally do get a chance to play with your virtual feline, you have a small collection of toys to choose from. These range from a simple string and ball to even a toy truck. Unfortunately, the amount of items is miniscule at best and without any unlockables they tend to grow stale long before you’ve gotten your fill. If playing with these toys doesn’t thrill you, just wait until you have to scoop out their litter box; yeah it is just as much fun as doing it in real life.
There are also four mini-games that you can play with your cat; cat karaoke, heart shooting, basketball, and Simon says. Yeah they are all as weird and awkward as they sound. Watching a kitten meow along to karaoke is just as peculiar as it sounds. Each game lets you earn money to pay for food and other necessities in the game, so playing them is crucial. You will quickly discover that the rhythm tapping game is far and away the best of the bunch, and it just so happens is the best place to earn money.
You can also enroll your cat into shows throughout the game that will give you a chance to see how well you have taken care of them. This is usually a good time to earn some quick cash as the shows themselves aren’t heavy in the game play department. All of the money you earn can be used to purchase food, accessories, and even new cats for you to interact with. You can also customize your home with new rugs and wall designs, but this has very little effect on anything inside the game. There is also a small multi-player component that allows you to crossbreed your cat with someone else who owns the game, which is kind of cool, but it would have been better to include something more along the lines of allowing different cats to interact with each other and seeing if they are compatible.
From a purely presentation aspect, the Purr Pals lacks any form of visual punch. The models are poorly animated and more resemble adult cats as opposed to kittens. The environments are bland and the overall presentation of the menus is just sloppy and feels cheap. The sound is also lackluster mostly because there just isn’t much here. The game does utilize voice commands via the DS microphone, but they are so limited and unresponsive they aren’t worth mentioning.
It is no secret that Purr Pals wants desperately to be Nintendogs. The sad truth is that there just isn’t enough here to warrant the comparison. While there are highlights, such as the rhythm tapping game and the sheer amount of customization options for your feline, the rest of the game simply falls flat. The title is obviously aimed at a younger demographic and it shows, but outside of the most die-hard cat fans this game will have a hard time finding an audience. While not entirely broken, Purr Pals simply lacks a certain charm that would make it a must own addition to your DS library.