There is little to do in Little Friends: Dogs & Cats.
Back during the days of the Nintendo DS, there was one game that everyone that I know would talk about: Nintendogs, the Nintendo-made dog simulator. My friends and I would compare each other’s dogs and talk to them as if they were our actual pets in real life. Play with a real dog? I’d rather play with my virtual one. While I did not play the later entries of Nintendogs or Nintendogs and Cats, I am now able to bring back those old memories in Little Friends: Dogs & Cats.
The biggest strength and weakness of Little Friends is that it is very straightforward. You begin the game by choosing your first dog to take home with you. At your home, you get to care and play with your pet.
Each pet has four different statuses that you maintain: happiness, cleanliness, hunger, and thirst. All of these can be managed at home and everything you do with your pet will increase their friendship level. As your dog’s friendship level goes up, they will learn new tricks and become better at catching frisbees. Unfortunately, you can only gain a certain amount every day. Whenever you do something with your pet at home you will gain coins. The game has four different kinds of currency with coins being the most common. There are also three different types of bills being Red, Blue, and Green.
When feeding your pet each one has a preferred type. There is both crunchy and soft food with different types like cow, chicken, fish, and a combination of all three. If you feed your pet with their preferred kind then they will be more satisfied with their meal.
There are numerous different shops you can go to when you are at home that lets you buy, food, toys, furniture, and outfits. You also have the option at home to change the interior design of your abode.
Outside of your house, you can go to the Friends Plaza where you can choose new pets to take home with you for free. What is disappointing about getting a new pet is that there is a small number of breeds for both cats and dogs. Dogs have six options while cats only have three. I’m hoping they will add more options as DLC in the future because I really wanted a Corgi and a Pug. You can have up to three friends at home while any other pets that you have stay at the “Friends Hotel.” This is the game’s way of you being able to rotate your pets if you want.
Another activity you can do is take your dog for a walk which will help raise its friendship level. And there can’t be a pet simulator game without the coveted frisbee contest. The competition has numerous different tiers with each one giving different rewards. This is my favorite part of the game because it feels more than just a pet simulator as there are actually some stakes at hand.
What I feel to be the biggest problem of the game is the lack of things to do with cats. The first time you are able to bring a cat home is the first time you hit level fifteen with a dog. At home, all you can really do with cats is a wand mini-game and it is, well, just plain boring. At least when you throw the ball around with your pets you get to see them mess around a little bit before they grab the ball and bring back to you. And cats don’t even do that. They just hit the ball around until one of the dogs grabs it. So you basically work your way up with your dog to get a different pet that is way less interesting to interact with.
In Little Friends, you have the option to play the game both docked and as a handheld. If you do decide to play it docked then you will have to play with the joy-cons specifically. You cannot use a pro controller or the Joy-Con attachment controller that you get with your Nintendo Switch. When I first played Little Friends I tried the game this way and it was abysmal. I would point to the screen trying to pet my dog and it would just be all over the place. It might have had to do with the placement of where my Switch was that caused it, but it was just sitting right next to my television. So if it can’t work where it should be ideally placed then I don’t know when it is supposed to work.
This layout also requires an unnecessary amount of work. Having to hold up your arm, holding down a button and then consistently moving your arm around just to pet your dog or cat just feels cumbersome. Playing the game in handheld mode is a completely different experience. It just feels right and is much simpler. To pet one of your little friends all you need to do is move your finger across the screen, which is much easier compared to the Joy-Cons. There is really no reason for you not to play this game in handheld mode. The pets look fine in this mode the environments do the job. The game does everything in handheld mode that you expect of it.
Little Friends: Dogs & Cats is a fun time in short waves, but it is very limited on what you can do, especially for the game’s asking price. Every once in a while you can check in, see how your pets are doing, and then move on. You don’t have to worry about your pets dying on you while you are away, though their status effects will go down.
I enjoyed my time with Little Friends: Dogs & Cats even though it does not have much new to offer in the genre. We have seen this formula done before time and time again and while this isn’t a bad thing per se, it’d be nice to see new features and things to do that could make the pet sim subgenre more exciting. Little Friends brings back great gaming memories and is definitely a good game for children, which is likely what its main audience is. This is a game I will likely find myself returning to every now and then just because I can turn off my brain and not have to think about much of anything which makes for a simplistic and relaxing time.