Real dogs are cute and adorable, but they are to the gadgeteer what the Gizmondo is to the videogamer. Rubbish, basically. If you're not raising some sort of cyber-dog these days, your tech credentials take a serious hit. We've already played (and then betrayed) Sony's Aibo dog -- if you took him out in the real world he was about as fun to play with as a tennis ball covered in razor blades. Screw Sony's £1,500 effort -- now we're raising a Labrador called Maxwell courtesy of Nintendo, the only company that could make a game as sublime as Nintendogs for the DS.
While we were shouting commands at the virtual pet in the office, passers-by cynically called Nintendogs a glorified Tamogotchi. They even questioned the point of playing with a pixellated puppy. But what these people forget is that real dogs have a tendency to poo on the floor, drool on the carpet and occasionally even hump your leg. And far from being a mere glorified virtual pet, Nintendogs is the most impressive use of the DS' touchscreen yet. It's the sort of game that casual gamers like Amber will lap up.
Choosing our puppy from the pet store and handing over the (virtual) cash, we'd named our new Labrador 'Maxwell' within minutes. And we mean we actually named him -- you can shout at your DS (it has a built-in microphone) and the dog will recognise his name and basic commands. After a little trust is built up between the two of you, it's on to basic tricks -- pat his head and run the stylus down his face and he'll sit, or rub his belly in a circular motion and he'll roll over. We've lost count of the times we've unconsciously said "aww" at our new canine chum's cuteness. Just look at the picture -- he's got a present in his mouth! Aww.
Nintendogs is one of the reasons the DS is currently outselling the PSP by 2:1 in the UK -- and of course it's half the price of Sony's wondergadget. We just got our hands on Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories this week, so we'll let you know if Rockstar's PSP remake is reason enough to buy Sony's console next week. -GC