When I was handed the assignment for My Pet Shop, I was understandably excited. Would there be fluffy kitties and the grooming thereof? Would I be able to feed carrots to precious little bunnies? And would I be able to do all of this while not clawing my eyes out in sheer Nerd Rage?
The answers are, yes, yes, and surprisingly enough, yes. In My Pet Shop, you play a child transplanted from the big city to the out-of-the-way burg of Green Town. No one has any pets, and you and your mother open a pet shop to rectify this grave injustice and quite possibly train your puppy dog to roll over. Shockingly, this game far exceeded my admittedly small expectations. Let’s see why My Pet Shop succeeds where other pet-related games fail.
The graphics in My Pet Shop are not the main draw. They’re very reminiscent of games like Cooking Mama, using a lot of 2D drawings. Many things, like houses and trees, look almost like cardboard cutouts, and not in a bad way. It’s all very bright and colorful. The animals are all rendered in 3D, and they move fairly realistically. They aren’t as detailed as well as the animals in, say, Nintendogs, but they look really good.
For the most part, the music is all forgettable. It’s about what you would expect from a kid’s game. You won’t find yourself clawing out your ears, but you probably won’t be tapping your toes either. The sound is also not very noteworthy, with the animals sounding exactly like animals.
If it seems like I’m glossing over these first two parts, it’s because you’re not really going to notice the graphics or the sound. I mean, they’re there, but they won’t either detract or add to the experience, and in any case, they’re not where the real meat of the game lies.
Now we start getting to the fun stuff. Most of the game is broken up into easily understood minigames that control with the stylus in very intuitive ways. For instance, when you need to brush your pet’s hair, your pet will be on screen, and arrows will appear on him or her. Drag your stylus across the arrows to brush the animal. You have a time limit, but even if you don’t do it all the way, there’s no real penalties for failure.
Likewise, you’re able to go into the forest and search for animals. You tap various bushes and trees in order to find pets. Sometimes, other items will come out, like a bomb. You have to rub the fuse on the bomb to put out the flame and you’ll get an item. If you don’t, there’s no penalty, but you won’t get the item.
What I really like about these controls, though, is that they’re very straightforward. There’s no confusion over what exactly needs to be done. The game will usually tell you what needs to be done, which is great for younger gamers who may not be familiar with these types of controls.
My Pet Shop can be classified as an RPG-lite, heavy on the lite. You have about seven actions a day, and washing a dog or visiting the forest usually counts as an action. You get simple quests, like “Find a black cat for Person X” or “Put a bow on your dog.” You fulfill the quests, call the customer over, and then, at the end of the day, recieve your daily wages from your mother. You’re also able to save the game every night. There’s a story going on as well, and you have the ability to take your pet to pet shows and the like.
Here’s another example of a cool gameplay mechanic: In order to capture animals, you play a minigame where you try and get the animal to like you. They stand a certain distance away from you, and you try either approaching them or backing away. Some animals will be easier to approach than others, and if you approach too fast, they’ll run away. Sometimes, you can set down a treat, and if the animal likes the treat, they’ll walk over to eat it. You can then approach the animal and pet it.
There are cool ideas all over My Pet Shop, but my playtime usually devolved into me taking jobs brushing cats and dogs and trying to find the next quest hook. Not all of the quest hooks are easy to attain either. Here’s an example: I had two cats, a grey cat and a black one. One of my people wanted a cat, so I handed her the black one. Unbeknownst to me, there was a person in town who wanted a black cat. I had to go back to the woods to find one and wasted about an hour looking for a black cat. There really wasn’t much that could be done to avoid that, but it was just kind of annoying.
Everything being said, I was extremely impressed with how much polish went into My Pet Shop. Most of these games will just give you a virtual pet and a few toys and let you play with them. Here, there’s an actual game. It’s a great way to start your kids out playing with a game that’s cute and inoffensive, while whetting their appetite for something more substantial.