Review: Paws & Claws: Pet Resort

I’m a sucker for any video game that’s related to animals. Unfortunately, I am forced to pass most of them up, simply because they are generally of such horrible quality. Though, I like to give them a chance anyway. Unfortunately, with my latest venture, I was terribly disappointed. Paws & Claws: Pet Resort is not the worst animal-related game I’ve ever tried, but it certainly isn’t the best, either. It does offer some intricate tasks for children to perform, which is quite admirable, but as a whole it falls flat – perhaps it would have worked better as a DS title.

When you begin the game, you can create your own character, boy or girl. While very limited, there are a few pathways you can take in order to customize your pet resort owner, though they will come later. After choosing a gender and a name, you’re let loose into your very own, brand new resort. It’s here that you will accept new customers who will bring you pets to take care of while they’re away. The game starts you out rather slow, though I’m sure you would rather be taking care of the adorable dogs and cats pictured on the front of the box.

Your first customer is the proud owner of a guinea pig, and you will spend the first few hours of the game tending to this guinea pig and various other rodents that clients will check in to the pet resort. However, from then on you will be taking care of bigger, cuter pets. Just don’t get too excited – it takes quite a bit of work and effort to get to that point. After you’re assigned your first job, you can go out and about within the grounds of Cuddle Manor (yes, that’s the real name). Each type of animal is housed in a different location. When you receive word from a client that you’ll be looking after their pet, the pet will be transferred to the proper location.

You must physically travel to each pet’s location on the map, so this can become a bit tedious as you will be asked to look after a wide variety of pets simultaneously. When you arrive at each type of pet’s housing, there are a few basic tasks to perform in order to keep the animals healthy and happy. You’ll feed them by creating your own mixes of food via simple minigames or pre-made food, pet them, play with them, and even bathe them. This is all pretty routine, right? You’d think so, though the minigames involved in performing these tasks are pretty backwards. For instance, when bathing an animal, there is no discernable way to understand if you’re performing it correctly or not. At least with Nintendogs, you could tell when the dog was getting clean. On Paws & Claws, needless guesswork is involved. When “playing” with the animals, you will play some rather strange games. Guinea pigs, for examples, enjoy playing the ball-under-a-cup game where you hide a ball underneath a cup, mix them up, and try to figure out which cup the ball is under. How does this even make sense?

Just like with bathing an animal, petting them is similarly frustrating. If the Wii remote is actually registering, the pet will actually whine as if you’re hurting it – the last thing I want to hear! It’s such a daunting task to perform vital, daily jobs that pets require that playing this game can become more work than owning a real pet and taking good care of it. Because of this, Paws & Claws: Pet Resort is more like writing an essay about owning a pet rather than having fun with the responsibility and companionship that comes along with it.

Moving up from rodents to cuter pets such as dogs and cats takes an unnecessarily long amount of time. In order to do so, you’ll be asked by the Mayor of Cuteville to perform different tasks. Unfortunately, those tasks are less “important errands” than easy directions telling you to do the same things you’ve likely been doing during the entire game, like petting a guinea pig or feeding a rabbit. This is a bit counterproductive and silly, and the biggest draw of the game is likely getting to play with familiar domestic pets. For a game that’s largely a virtual pet simulator like GigaPets back in the old days, you must play far too long in order to procure animals you may be interested in.

For a game that children will be playing, shoddy minigames and spotty Wii remote controls are not the way to go. After all, parents will likely not want to have to keep dealing with a squawling child who can’t figure out why the animals aren’t happy with the treatment they’re getting. Let us not forget the voice acting, which is quite atrocious. The voice actors sound as if they are adults rather than children, who they are portraying. What’s more, the audio often does not match the subtitles onscreen. This seems to be a trending issue in what we usually designate as shovelware. Is it that much trouble to match the voiceovers with what’s appearing onscreen?

For a Wii game, the graphics are pretty terrible as well. They don’t go far to emphasize the Wii’s graphical capabilities, and for a game that places importance on cute, cuddly animals, the animals themselves don’t look that great. This is particularly disappointing, as I admit I was interested primarily because hey, cute animals are kind of my thing.

I tried hard to enjoy this game, simply because I wanted to believe that there is one pet game out there that doesn’t rely on tired mechanics, horrible Wii motion controls, bad graphics, and shady voiceovers in order to appeal to children and potential buyers. While there is the potential to teach children responsibility here via working toward earning “bigger” animals, the game is too frustrating to recommend to anyone other than those who enjoy playing fruitless titles. This is yet another Wii title to toss in the shovelware bin. As previously stated, perhaps it could have been better had the developers focused solely on creating it for the DS, where such experiences typically flourish. At least I have my own real dog to take care of.

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