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  • Chad Myers

Game Review #298: Little Friends: Dogs & Cats (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Chad M.

Developer: Imagineer

Publisher: Sold Out

Category: Simulation, Lifestyle

Release Date: 5.27.2019

Price (at time of review): $49.99 (physical & digital)

Buy Little Friends: Dogs & Cats from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy Little Friends: Dogs & Cats from Amazon here.

Where In The World Are The Animals

With the ever growing eShop, and developers seemingly jumping on every genre and retro idea, I have to ask where in the heck are the cute cuddly animal games? I mean, for some odd reason we have an extremely gross amount of horse or pony games for the Nintendo Switch, but I can’t find a kitty or puppy game for my son—who LOVES them—to save my life. I mean it... I’m not talking about the dreaded shovelware-type titles either. At one point on the Nintendo 3DS, you could easily grab games that would help build brain power and work on young minds, and they also had games that promoted healthy relationships with our furry little friends in Nintendo’s own game, Nintendogs, which was loved by fans and even went as far as the title Nintendogs & Cats, which landed on their “Nintendo Selects” series.

So when the hybrid system came out, I was sure I’d see the beloved series make its way over; and as we’ve learned time and time again, if you don’t bring over what the fans want, then some other developer will pounce on that opening, and take advantage in order to give the market what it wants. The developer Imagineer has done just that with Little Friends: Dogs & Cats, firmly taking stance in this market thirsty for the right content. The game is brought to us by way of publisher Sold Out, and with summer here, it couldn’t have come at a better time. So, do they have a hit on their hands, or is this just a hapless take for a cash grab? Let’s find out!

Ruff, Ruff!!! Meow, Meow!!!

Once you start up Little Friends, the first thing we do is pick which puppy we’re taking home today. You can pick from several breeds to begin with, like French Bulldog, Chihuahua, and the one my son and I choose, the German Shepherd.

You then choose the gender of your pup and pick the hair color; then, in what I thought was a really neat idea, they put out three different dogs of the same breed, giving different characteristics like playful, full-spirited, happy, and mischievous, to name a few, then you are allowed to pick which little guy you’ll be taking home as your forever friend.

Once you pick your little guy, you name them—my son named our little German Shepherd Link—then you’ll be taking them home to start building your relationship. You can have up to three pets, and can also have cats, but you have to reach a certain level before those perks kick in.

Rub A Dub Dub Feels Like Love!

Once you’re home, you have a few things laid out on the screen. The top left usually shows you the title of the activity you’re doing at the moment. Bottom left is important, as it has your friendship meter, which is where you can see your current level. There, you will find five hearts. Each time you fill up all five, you’ll gain a level.

Below that, you have four more meters that show very important things to keep your animal happy and safe. You first have the happy or care meter showing if they need attention, food meter—which is very important for obvious reasons—water so they stay hydrated, and a cleanliness meter, showing that they’re kept nice and clean.

Bottom right of screen we have care, going out, shop, home, and options. By using these, you can make sure meters are held up and your pup stays happy. Under care, you’ll find quality time, where you can pet and love on your little buddy, and also brush and bathe them. Here you’ll also find that you can feed them, water them, clean their toilet, play catch, and dress them up.

Anything that has to do with interacting or being active, you can bet will translate to being more active while playing. You can strap on the Joy-Cons in docked mode and play out the motions, really loving on your pet, and then actually playing catch with them. All of these actions or modes can be played in handheld mode as well, but the experience felt more full in docked mode, and my son liked the full-on experience of being able to throw and interact more as well. I say that, but I also see myself playing this more in handheld mode, which takes advantage of the touch screen to allow you to rub and love on your friend by swiping your finger.

Finally, on the top right of the screen, we have the currency. This is where the in-game coin currency—which you get for doing almost anything for your pup—is shown. Then, there are three coupon-sticker-types of currency that can be obtained through competitions and the like.

Every Little Thing Counts In Friendship

Now, I personally never got to play Nintendogs, and have heard that it may have had more options and things available. To me, it’s not serving as a replacement, but rather, filling the gap that’s been left. I think they’ve done that and more.

There were so many options to decorate the house and change the environments, from buying furniture, to changing the walls, and so much more. You have to pop into the shop to buy food for your pup, but while there, you can buy toys, furniture for them, or clothes to dress them up. Aside from the care station, my son and I spent a lot of time on the going out station, where you can take them for a walk—where you can find money hidden in spots marked by balloons—or take them to do their business, which has them hiking their little leg to go tinkle.

Also, while outside, you can take them to Friends Plaza to meet other little pups, so they can become accustomed to other dogs. Then there is the flying disc throw, which, when you practice enough, you can join in on competitions and earn those stamps that allow you to do all sorts of things, like paint the walls and change the flooring. From the options menu, you can check out all of the stamps and collectables you’ve obtained while playing.

Audio & Visuals

The soundtrack is filled with soft bubbly melodies that are placed to give a soothing and relaxing feel. The tempo can change slightly, depending on the activity, but for the most part, the soundtrack was just ok, not memorable at all. The sound effects are a little better though. While booting up the game, I can already hear our puppy squealing that he misses us and it’s been too long since he’s seen us.

The visuals are a mixed bag for me. I think the visuals on the animals are great and look the part, and can give you a nice feeling of immersion, It’s everything around your furry friend that feels rather dated. The backgrounds at the disc competition and walking park both feel very last gen, and I wish they could have had more time to polish them up, but at least it shines where it needs to with the animals.

Full disclosure: I’d probably get burnt out over several hours of playing, but everyone else in my household was the exact opposite. My wife couldn’t stop playing it, thinking it was so cute and fun. She’d play it docked and all I’d hear was laughs and the Awww sounds over and over. My son was the same, and he loved it. He wouldn’t stop playing it in both modes, and he was sad he couldn’t take it and play it on his own Switch, which shows the level of how much the kiddos will like this one.

It’s A Wrap!!!

While Little Friends: Dogs & Cats isn’t a full replacement of the classic Nintendogs, it is fairly good at doing what it intended to do, and that’s to give you a fun solid simulation of owning a puppy. I’ve heard some reviewers complain about the price, but games like Yoshi or Kirby can be beaten by anyone in my household in a couple of sittings. Though Little Friends didn’t captivate me for hours on end, it definitely was something the rest of my family had trouble putting down, so I’d say if you’re a hardcore gamer who’s single with no kids and hates animals, then this isn’t the game for you; but if you’re an animal lover, love sim-style games, or have kids or other family who love animals, this is easily one you’ll have to have.

Score: 7/10 for me (Dad)

Score: 10/10 for my son

Score: 9/10 for my wife

Final Score: 8.67/10

Buy Little Friends: Dogs & Cats from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy Little Friends: Dogs & Cats from Amazon here.

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