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November 8, 2013

Purr Pals

I dunno for you guys and gals, but a whole month talking about Pokémon has... tired me. I might be posting reviews late now... Oh, who am I kidding. If I have problems with my schedule, it's mostly because I have so much university work to do. But I should be done with most of those soon enough, so it's fine.

Yet, despite that, I feel like I need some sort of transition between Kanto and the real world. A transition without any battles, but with cute creatures. I know! I'll review a pet care game! Just let me look through my collection... Ah, there it is!

Pet care games are, as the title says, games in which you have to care for an animal in particular, usually a house pet or another animal that a human can take care of. This subgenre of games includes the ever-famous Nintendogs, and... Today's game, Purr Pals. There are too many dog care games out there. Taking care of a cat, for once, should do the trick. And this one was in the Cheap box at Wal-Mart! ...Oh wait, this can't be good... Can it? We'll see.


When the game is turned on, we see a nice 3D model of the title on the top screen. And a kitten plays around with a butterfly. Aw, cute. Step one: Select a kitten! You have the choice between a dozen different types of cats, which is pretty good already, and- Wait, you mean there's actually about FORTY species of cats in this game? Wow! Okay, I give this game at least two or three points for the effort. It's really impressive. The many kittens come in different prices and different needs. You even see the cat's 3D model, so if you care more about its appearance, you'll know what your cat will look like. You can also choose its gender and type a name for it. Ready? You can now take care of your new kitt-


...

ACK! What kind of demonic monster is THAT??? I don't know what happened, but this is horrible! The kitten I picked... Ack! Okay, the 3D model sure is faulty. Ever heard the term “Uncanny Valley”? Yeah, I'm experiencing that right now. The cat's body is realistic, but the face... the FACE... My God, it looks like an advanced robot. But it looks JUST like that. There doesn't seem to be any life behind those eyes. They seem like artificial eyes. It's... My God! I'm scared. Very scared... Ack, It's so creepy!

Um... Before I start trembling, let's get to the other aspects of the game. Every day, if you have well taken care of your cat the day before, you will get an amount of money. The better your cat is today, the more money you'll get. Your cat has four basic needs: Food, groom, love and play. All four of those needs must be taken care of. You can also check each need's current status thanks to a button on the bottom screen; is the bar besides that need is on the green, you don't have to care for that need at the moment. However, if the bar has reached the yellow or red zones, you must absolutely do whatever necessary for said bat to go back to green. Simple enough.

On the main screen, you can access six options: Love, Food, Litter, Groom, Play and Extras. We'll get to the last one in due time, but for now let's look at (and make fun of) the five other selections.

Love: Aw, your kitty needs some love? Give him some. In this mode, you just gotta keep rubbing the kitten with the stylus. Yeah, it's simple. Some hearts pop out of the kitten when you pet a place it likes, so you can keep rubbing that one spot to decrease your kitten's need of love faster. What's unsettling about it is that the kitten will stare at you all the time while you do that. Well, okay, not all the time. But it's still unsettling. Luckily it doesn't spin its head entirely like the demon from The Exorcist... Also, you can spin the camera around the kitty when you're petting it. As such, you can rub it anywhere... even on the anus. I'm... not kidding. … And mine liked it! Eeyew, my stylus would feel dirty if it had emotions!

Food: You are sent to a top screen where your kitten waits in front of a bowl, and to a bottom screen with an empty bowl and four different types of food. You can buy food at the game's store, which we'll see later. The first type of food is generic enough, but the three others will also help lower one of your kitten's other needs: Love, Groom and Play. To give food to the cat, you grab one box with the stylus and shake it above the empty bowl, until it's emptied. Your cat can then eat. Before you do that, the cat will ask you to give it food by getting on its back legs and kind of dancing. ...Cue another comparison with robotic cats.

Litter: All that food has to come out somewhere. Thank God at least the game is realistic on this aspect. The litter, placed in the house's bathroom, is very simple. You just have to rub over the small poop in the litter to make it disappear. Once more, my stylus would feel dirty. You can also change the litter after a while. You shouldn't enjoy cleaning the cat's litter, though. Remember that the stylus is treated like your hand in most parts of this game... Yuck.

Groom: Of course, kittens have hair, so you need to groom them! If you don't groom them for a long while, they end up with fleas. When you choose to groom them, a bar appears near your cat, and as you brush it, the bar goes down. When its empty, this grooming session is over. Yeah, and for “grooming”, it doesn't do a thing to the cat's style! At least, Pokémon got that right on their new poodle Pokémon in X and Y!

Play: You can also play with your kitten. When you start the game, you don't have a single toy. However, you can buy them in the game's shop. There's a lot of choice. You can blow in the microphone to make a toy butterfly. You can make it play with a pink string attacked to a stick. You can wind up a toy mouse and see it run around trying to catch the toy. You can buy a fishing rod with a plastic fishie at the end of the line, and your cat will play with the fish. You can buy a bouncy ball for your cat and it'll go where you toss it. Finally, you can buy a plastic dump truck in which you can put your cat and make it travel around in it. No, not a life-size dump truck, one like those that little children play with.

In addition to all this, you also get an option labeled Extras. You have a number of choices in there, too: Rooms, Shop, Games, Customize, Shows and Friends. Let's look at those as well! I still have about a thousand words to fill!

Rooms: You have the choice between four different rooms to put your cat in: The kitchen, the bathroom, the living room and the backyard. Huh, didn't know the backyard was a room. The 3D environments look nice, they're pretty well rendered, and some touches are nice. As an example, there's an aquarium in the living room, and sometimes your cat might jump on it and try to catch the fish. Bad kitty, no! There's a few more details, as well as a funny or creepy Easter Egg. Bring your kitten in the backyard, and in Love mode, make it walk towards a pedestal. The cat will jump on the pedestal... and DANCE! Oh, the adorable horror! ...He was programmed to do that, he was programmed to do that, he was programmed to do that... On a side-note, the rooms are fully customizable.

Shop: Since all this stuff isn't given to you for free, you need to come here to buy food, litter and toys for your cat. The litter and food are found in the supplies. There's an Accessories shop in which you can buy toys, food and water bowls and baskets with different designs. By the way, if you thought the kitten couldn't feel less like a toy, you can buy clothes and dress it up! There's the normal stuff (collars and tags), but you can also buy hats – the most expensive of which are sold 50 FREAKING in-game DOLLARS –, glasses and comedic NOSES. Oh yeah, I always wanted my kitty to have a toucan beak attached to its nose. Last but not least, you can fully customize your house in the Decoration section, by buying wall designs, floor designs, rug designs, trim designs, fabric designs, wood designs, stone designs, top designs, ceiling designs, print designs, door designs... Holy crap, it's like you can waste a few thousands buying all this! If only you weren't so damn dependent on your cat to get money, you'd have an infinitely customizable house!

Games: Well, the developers knew it was kind of a cheap shot that your cat would be your only source of income, so they've put in four games that will give you money when you play them. There are four mini-games in this: Music, Cupid, Copycat (ha ha...) and Alley Oop. Cupid makes you pop hearts with a bow and an arrow, Copycat makes you repeat the sequence made by your cat, and Alley Oop makes you play basketball. Those three games are awful and absolutely forgettable, and give next to no money. Music, however... It's an interesting one. You can pick through a variety of songs, from Twinkle Twinkle to The Magic Flute. The easier a song is, the least money it gives when you finish it. How does it works? It's like Guitar Hero if you could play only one note at a time because you had to tap 'em with your stylus. I'll admit, this little Music game is my favorite part of the game. It's fun, and while the songs are all rather easy, the challenge is getting 100 on all the songs. Four cats, including yours, sing the notes. They still look like robots... But their meowing to the music is cute. I'll give it that. It's a shame that the game's sound volume is low...

Customize: Here, you can dress up your cat with all those regular items I mentioned (you still need to buy them at the shop before, though), and also with the stupid items like the hats, eye wear and nose wear. You can customize the accessories, the food and water bowls, and the baskets. Finally, you can customize the decor, and yes it means that you can change every. Single. Solitary. Element of the house that I described in the Shop section. My God, there's billions of different possibilities...

Shows: You can also bring your cat to shows! You can make it participate in shows! Basically, when you enter a show, you must pay an entrance fee, and then your cat will face against other cats. Your cat will be judged on how much it loves you, how well-groomed it is, how playful it is, and how well-fed it is. If all four of those have gathered a positive response from the judges, chances are high that you'll win. This is the quickest way to gain a lot of money in this game, aside from the Music mini-game. Though, it IS kind of a boring mode. Also, you can participate only on one show each day.

Last but not least, the Friends option lets you connect with another owner of Purr Pals. The two cats will meet, and you will both see the results. Good idea? Not really... Because, like I said at the beginning, this was in the Cheap Box. Those are the games we're the least proud to announce that we own. Good luck finding someone with this game...

Aaaaand that's it for taking care of your little embodiment of the uncanny vall-er, I mean, your cat. You have all the tools in hand, now all you gotta do is play this game and see if you can survive this cute abomination!

The worst part? This game got sequels, and the cats are still
scary! Stare in those soulless eyes!
Joke aside, though, this game sucks! No wonder it was so cheap! I like the fact that you can choose between forty different species in this, as it sure offers lots of choice. But the cats are SCARY. They don't look real, they don't feel real, and when you ignore them they'll start nagging you with their meowing. It did that to me five times while I was writing this review! FIVE! All the aspects of this game are forgettable. You should get bored with your cat after maybe a week or two. You can't care for this cat, you can't feel love for something that has clearly been programmed like a robot! Another good thing I can say is that there's an impressive amount of customization in this game. You can customize almost everything, and like I said, there's billions of possibilities. The mini-games are almost all bad, the only one that doesn't straight-up suck is the Music mini-game, and even that one is easy enough that you'll get bored with it after a while. The sound volume is low, even at maximum, so you almost need earphones to hear the music fine. The problem is that it feels like this game put emphasis on variety and on full customization rather than in the gameplay and in polishing the cats' 3D models so that they look real. Making better an aspect that isn't even the main one in the game? Bad idea, especially here. Quantity doesn't equal quality. I'd have preferred less cat species, and more realistic cats. And better programming, 'cause like I said, it feels like they're god damn ROBOTS.

Final verdict? ...If you have it, don't throw it out, but if you don't and you see it at a cheap store, don't buy it. It's not worth the money. Trust me on that one. Go get some Nintendogs instead, it's way, WAY better. If you really want to buy some product of Uncanny Valley, though, look for a Teddy Ruxpin. And have some sweet dreams.