|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: DK Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: DreamCatcher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 18, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Virtual pets have slowly evolved over the years since the once rampant popularity of Tamagotchi. What were once simple pixilated pets with basic needs have grown into more complicated digital creatures. They've served a welcome niche of people who love the idea of having a pet, but don't have the time, energy, or resources required to take care of a real live animal.
If you fall under that category, and also happen to have young kids in the house, then Animates for Nintendo DS may be the perfect solution to quell the re-occurring, semi-constant whine of "mommy can we get a pet?"
Though Nintendogs may still be the best overall choice among virtual pet titles on the DS, Animates seeks to provide a pared-down, yet equally adorable, gameplay experience which can easily be accessed and enjoyed by the youngest of video game enthusiasts. Aside from its entertainment value, Animates also aims to provide a fun way to teach children about taking care of animals and about the responsibility of making sure their pet's needs are met.
In an interesting twist, none of the five species of available pets in Animates is a creature that can be found in the real world. The game takes place in a unique fantasy landscape and its inhabitants are equally unusual. Each of the species play roughly the same, but every creature is distinctly different in appearance. One is a cuddly cross between a rabbit and a pig, another appears to be some strange distant cousin of the lion family, and there's also one that seems like a mix between a monkey and a house cat. Players with more peculiar tastes in pets can choose an elongated purple and white creature with small, thin flapping ears or a weird blue alien-looking thing with a huge nose. Each of the little Animates is cute in its own way, and it's not hard to immediately find at least one that's appealing.
Once you've selected your species of Animate, you're given the option of raising between one and five of the creatures at a time, and you can give each one a name of your own choosing. Your small creature starts out as an egg. Tapping its shell will eventually cause the egg to hatch and your baby creature will spend a few minutes checking out its new surroundings before hopping to the ground. After being hatched, it's your job to make sure it stays healthy, well-fed, and entertained, as it grows and matures to adulthood.
Keeping in line with the game's younger target audience, the control interface in Animates may perhaps be one of the most simple to grace the DS. Neither the d-pad nor the shoulder or face buttons are used in any capacity throughout the game. All controls have been set to the touch screen - and even that is further simplified to a basic tapping motion. Also, pressing start brings up a general menu, while the select button simply switches between several charts on the upper screen which are used to track your Animate's needs, skills, and awards. Simple does not always equate to better. Moving your pet around is just a matter of tapping a location with the stylus. This would not be a problem if your animal responded consistently based on the direction you attempt to send it. Tapping the any portion of the screen immediately to the left, right, or directly below your Animate (presumably to move your creature closer to you or to the left and right) will cause it to slowly walk a few steps in that direction before stopping again to sit down. To get it to walk continuously - and at a sluggish pace no less - requires near-constant tapping of the screen with the stylus. It can be annoying, but if you're not expecting the poor little thing to haul tail then you'll eventually get to wherever you're headed, with some patience. Surprisingly, tapping a location off in the distance will cause your pet to actually run to get there faster. With the way the camera is situated, running is really only easily possible when you're trying to move straight back towards the scenery. It's an unfortunate oversight that can cause the game's pace to drag unnecessarily at times.