So one of the many things that got lost in the shuffle this just past crazy, busy, hectic holiday season was Ubi Soft’s IMAGINE series of games for the DS, which they claim is “the first ever dedicated brand developed to appeal to girls age 6?14″. Thus far, there are four titles in the line-up, all of which fulfills every girl’s wildest ambitions, which apparently is either being a chef, fashion designer, a pet doctor, or a mother. Each title falls squarely in the casual game market, one which I kinda like, though designing dresses and burping babies is still a bit “gay” for me, and this coming from a dude that generally likes games where you play a bunny and have to jump on the head’s of angry chipmunks or throw carrots at them.
But I gladly accepted the games from Ubi anyway, simply because I’m looking to get back into the game review arena, especially since I’ve had a somewhat difficult time this past season acquiring titles; just discovered that my review copies of KOF XI and NeoGeo Battle Coliseum were both lost in transit, and I have no idea whatever happened to Rock Band… I’m afraid EA might be still upset with me being so harsh towards the latest Burnout game coming up. Anyhow, I planned on giving the Imagine games a shot, despite them not being my cup of tea, and looking like train-wrecks, which btw was what I almost exclusively reviewed for GMR and sorta liked it. But one thing led to another, and they too fell by the wayside, yet they have not sat on some shelf, left unplayed… Katie actually gave each of them a spin, so here’s a review of the “best” game in the series, Animal Doctor, courtesy of Ms. Skelly!
REVIEW: IMAGINE Animal Doctor
by Katie Skelly
IMAGINE Animal Doctor for the DS is a god awfully boring game. When I think about somewhat similar DS games, Nintendogs and Trauma Center, I think of challenging and visually interesting games that do, to some extent, creatively simulate the reality of owning a pet or performing surgery. Sort of. I am neither a pet owner nor a veterinarian, but there are a few things I know about pet health and care:
1. Your pet will have some sort of reaction when you touch it.
2. Your pet will not suffer crippling health damages if you fail to touch it every second of the day.
3. If your pet has fleas on its body, its problem is having fleas on its body. Its problem is mostly likely not bronchitis.
All of these things are false in Animal Doctor.
Getting started in the game, I write my name (Kevorkia, the last “n” wouldn’t fit) and yet when I met my grandmother for the first time in the game, she calls me Sally. Okay. So the first thing Grandma tells me was that I needed to change my clothes. I expect that I’ll be changing into some lab gear, but when I awkwardly hobble to my closet (directing Kevorkia with the stylus is rather wonky) I find that my options to change into only include tunics, tank tops, different colored jeans, and denim shorts. I’m then told to buy some pens to put my cat patients in, but given the poor design, I have no idea how much money I have and how much money the pens are. So, like any girl, I buy crap and decide to ask questions later. Then it’s back to Grandma, who tells me I must talk to my cousin about keeping the cat pens clean. Cousin seems delighted when I asked him to clean up cat shit, and his sort of hunky looks and willingness to do things for me makes me feel bad for using him to clean up feces and hairballs but hey! I am a professional woman who can’t be bothered with such things. Now let me go back and ask my Grandma for business advice.
A word about the graphics to this point in the game: Sally looks like she’s been hit by a baseball bat, grandma doesn’t have facial features, and my house is an orange nightmare.
Grandma clues me in that if I want to dye my hair, I’ll have to do it in the bathroom. Thanks. Suddenly the reception bell rings and it’s time to see my first patient.
My first task is to heal a sick cat. But the thing I was supposed to be healing looked more like a mutant dog than a cat. After performing some tests on it, like removing fleas with tweezers, putting mucus on a Petri dish, injecting kitty with mystery serum, circling broken bones on an X-ray, and keeping a thermometer on the wriggling cat’s nose, I was told that my performance was “Amazing!” These tests are the most fun part of the game, although figuring out how to use the microscope is impossible and I never did learn how. What follows the arbitrary diagnosis (Broken bones + fleas = bronchitis?) is at first fun and sort of cute, but immediately becomes tedious. The cat is put into the cat pen, and in order for it to get well, it needs food, water, clean space, and lots and affection. So I stock up on food and toys and get to work healing this cat with stylus love. After a little petting, the cat is free from the chokehold of bronchitis and is given back to the owner. I am alerted that I have “won 1000″ somethings. Important lesson about veterinary medicine number one: you don’t earn your paycheck, you win it.
Grandma offers up some more valuable knowledge: with each incorrect diagnosis I make, my reputation will suffer. And I guess a bad reputation means no one will ever bring patients to you. This idea eventually becomes appealing.
Soon enough, I’m assigned my next task: “Heal 4 cats.” Four new people bring in four new sick cats to take care of. After diagnosing and putting all four cats in the pen, it suddenly becomes a huge burden to make the cats well enough to give them back to their owners. I keep running back to my cousin to guilt him into cleaning up the cat shit, then buying more food, giving the cats water, and finally, trying to cheer them up with affection. In order to pet and play with a cat, you first tap on it to get its attention, and then rub it with the stylus pen. Exactly like Nintendogs. What isn’t like Nintendogs is how little response the animals give to being touched. They jump up and down at random. They meow seldomly and it sounds more like they’re in pain than anything else. They don’t purr, and it makes no difference if I touch them on their head or their foot, they just sort of shift around and look vapid. They don’t come up close to the screen like Nintendogs, and so it’s hard to tell if you’re actually touching them or not. And the amount I have to touch them seems ridiculous. I pet one cat for a few minutes and the little status bar over its head slides from a frowny face to a smiley face, albeit slowly. However I pet the other cats for five straight minutes and absolutely nothing happens. When I wasn’t petting them, their status bar shot down quickly, and since I can only pet one cat at once, all of the cats suffered when I tried to make one better. And so I decided to try to just get one cat to heal and then try to redeem the others afterwards. And so I picked one cat and pet it. And pet it. And pet it. PET PET PET PET. No response. I pet its face, its feet, its tail, its asshole. Nothing. And since it was full of food and water, I didn’t know what else to do. I repeat this with all of the cats to absolutely no improvements. And since there is no indication of how much time was passing in the game, I couldn’t tell if I should leave them alone to maybe heal on their own accord. So I decide to try playing with them. I bought the only two toys available for the cats, a ball of yarn and a little mouse toy, and threw them around in an attempt to make the cats happy. This can be fun for a little while, and the cats’ health did eventually start to increase. But as with the petting, when I ignored one cat for more than .008 milliseconds, it became sicker and sicker. Even at the lowest on the health bar, the sickest cats look exactly the same as totally healthy cats. Playing with only two toys became totally fucking boring, and the cats never did anything more interesting than fake chew on their toys.
The instruction booklet as well as advice from Grandma do nothing to help me. To blow off steam, I dye my hair to a lovely shade of black in the bathroom. Grandma texts me to tell me the pens are dirty AGAIN. And Cousin didn’t even notice my new look.
Finally, as soon as I make a cat well, its time to diagnose another cat and heal it. Important lesson about veterinary medicine number two: The sick animals NEVER STOP COMING.
So after taking care of the cats, its time to start working with dogs. And, like the cats, the dogs are cold, boring, and predictable. It becomes even more impossible to juggle cleaning out the pens, feeding, and nurturing with an endless stream of sick cats AND dogs coming in, and so at that point I gave up and decided to take on caring for even more irritating creatures: IMAGINE Babyz.
BTW: the review originally appeared in the forums, along with write-ups for two of the other ones, and the plan was to publish them here a while ago, but it simply took Ubi forever to pass along screenshots.