In the beginning, it was Tamagochi, a small egg-shaped device which required users to feed and care for a small pixelated creature. But how many times have we seen our creatures die and resurrect over the years, and how many guilty feelings did we have in our childhood when we couldn't keep our digital animals alive?
Then it was the turn of Nintendogs, a game for the very first Nintendo DS where the "death" element had been avoided, making this lovely game with puppies much more relaxed and genuine, allowing users to simply focus on the more playful aspects of owning a little dog or kitten, like nourishing it, making it play, grooming it, and more.
What seemed to be a genre that was dead and buried for about a decade is about to make its return with a new pet simulation game called Little Friends: Dogs and Cats, developed by the Japanese studio Imagineer and coming exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. After arriving in Japan at the end of 2018, the new game dedicated to our little four-legged friends will also come to us on May 28, and we recently had the opportunity to get a taste of it in a very special location: the Crazy Cat Café in Milan, a place where - while sipping coffee or tea - you're surrounded by cute felines ready to receive lots of cuddles.
Just like its predecessors, in Little Friends: Dogs and Cats players are asked to take care of their puppies and kittens, and during our hands-on, we got to know two little dogs and a kitten, in turn allowing us to discover the different features that this new game has to offer. Players can choose from one of six breeds of dog, and there are three different types of cats to pick from too (after all, cats are much more demanding than dogs).
Players have the opportunity to name each of their puppies, as well as customise their look. From ballerina tutus to funny headphones, you can select from a large collection of items and clothes to give your pet the look you prefer. This is possible by accessing a shop - in which we can buy not only items to personalise our puppies, but also food, kennels, and more - and here it's possible to make purchases through in-game currency in the form of tickets. Players collect these by meeting certain needs of their pet or by participating in competitions.
Just as it would with a real puppy, the player has the task of satisfying certain vital needs of their furry friend. Keeping the litter clean, brushing it to keep it shiny and beautiful, feeding it with its favourite treats - these are the basic requirements to make your pet happy, elements that are all communicated through indicators on the screen that constantly monitor vital levels and the mood of your little critter. Playing with the ball or giving it a few minutes of pampering (made even more interactive through the use of the Joy-Cons) keeps your pet satisfied and happy, as well as creating a bond between player and pet.
In addition to the standard activities that can be performed inside the home, there are also a series of very fun outdoor activities in which we can engage our animal, from playing with the ball and the frisbee to taking walks in the garden, in addition to the previously mentioned competitions and tournaments. These are the funniest and most exciting mini-games because to participate and hit the top of the rankings, it's necessary to have properly trained your pet and to have built a great bond of trust with it. In other words, start competing only when your animal is ready enough to take the step.
Little Friends: Dogs and Cats aims to fill a gap left by the Nintendogs series for several years, appealing to a younger and more casual audience looking for something fun. Imagineer's new pet sim is a genuine and unpretentious game, but it does its job very well, offering quality time on Nintendo Switch in the company of these cute little friends, and players will find it hard not to fall in love with how adorable they all are.