The Dog Island

Happiness is a warm puppy. And an inevitable punch in the face...

Japan Import: We've only just come back from the toilet, having spent 20 minutes powerfully vomiting the full contents of our stomachs in an explosive, cute-saturated jet of puke, which has totally drenched the walls in the most adorable, big-nosed puppy fat prettiness the ladies' loos have ever seen. Let's wipe away that last hanging bit of sick from our mouths, and commence the review before the nausea returns.

Whether it pushed you over the edge of vomitus or not, there's no denying that the game and concept artwork is exactly that sort of adorable - the sort that will immediately sucker in all the same people who, say, still feel the need to check up on their Nintendog every now and again. Similarly, the sort of people who gleefully deleted their ex-girlfriend's Nintendog post-breakup will no doubt have been immediately repulsed by the idea - it's that sort of big-eyed, lash-fluttering, innocent-acting, emotionally manipulative 'cute'.

Look me straight in the eye
Thing is, the game has been met with lots of "So it's like Nintendogs but more so, yeah?" comments, whereas actually it feels more like a preschool introduction to a Zelda-esque RPG - albeit one that replaces quality puzzles and intelligent gameplay with fruit collecting and crap fishing. The game is indeed plot-driven, concerning your quest to find a magical cure for your brother who is taken seriously ill in the early stages of the game. He passes out mid-cutscene, complete with mournful puppy tears and sad music which - uh-oh, here comes that vomit again...

You set sail aboard a pirate ship and learn to fish whilst at sea, by way of an incredibly lame fishing minigame. This involves you pressing A to cast a line which the dog then holds between his teeth, making a Mutley "gnnarfafafffafaffa" face. You simply flick the remote up and down in order to keep the fish on the line, and it feels so unconnected to what's happening on screen that we felt more embarrassed playing it than when our tummies rumble in quiet cinemas.

Then, for some reason, you throw yourself overboard, only to get washed up on the shore of The Dog Island. After that, it's a case of talking to all the villagers and starting the tiresome task of relentless fishing, collecting fruit and flowers to level up, adding extra hearts to your conspicuously familiar heart bar, and unlocking new areas.

Can we just pause for a second to say, however, that the island map is huge. It's not just a couple of areas that are 10 minutes a pop to explore in total - no, we're talking a bigger game world than a great dane from the perspective of a chihuahua.

The environments are quite varied too - we actually quite liked the swimming around in water bits and the way our puppy would dog-shake himself dry when it was time to get out. Er, not that we liked it liked it, it was just, you know, er, visually not unpleasant. And the Harvest Moon: It's A Wonderful Life ability to gaze at the setting sun and watch stars appear in the peaceful colour-changing sky - er, nope, definitely didn't enjoy that either.

Tell me you hate it
Now, although there is a hell of a lot of fruit collecting, it's not that much of a hardship, because the controls are not actually punch-in-the-big-nose bad. There's a directional paw print you move on screen, and you hold down B in order to run in the direction you want. Your hero can pick up a fair pace, too, and it's all very smooth, even letting you shift view and thereby strafe with the D-pad. Not that you'll want to though, as you'll end up in a dog-chasing-tail circular scenario.

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