Available On: Switch
With the arrival of touch screen technology in the early 2000s, the ability to pet our furry friends wasn’t far behind. Nintendogs was a big success on the Nintendo DS, eventually spawning a sequel on Nintendo 3DS.
The Switch’s touchscreen controls and Joy-Con seem like an obvious pick for a new version, but thus far the series lies dormant. Here to fill in the gap is Little Friends: Dogs & Cats, a Nintendogs sequel in all but name. It brings the pet playing and petting to the big (and handheld) screen, though doesn’t evolve much beyond the original pet simulator formula from over a decade ago.
Nintendogs and Cats
I start by choosing to adopt a puppy from one of six different breeds: Chihuahua, French Bulldog, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Shiba, and Toy Poodle. They each have their own little personalities, like playful or easy-going. I chose a relaxed German Shepherd and named her Athena.
The bulk of the game takes place in a large digital living room, bare of almost any furniture. Every pet has a friendship meter that’s filled up by doing anything with your new friend, from petting to brushing, playing ball, feeding, and taking them for a walk.
Increasing the friendship level opens up new cosmetic items to decorate my room and my pup with. Room furniture and wallpaper is very limited and basic but I was impressed with the amount of cute and funny outfits I could dress my puppy in, from chic pullovers to a Santa cap and Santa doll riding on the back.
Actual activities are disappointingly limited. I can take my puppy out for a walk around the same 3D path, using the Joy-Con controller to direct her towards spots she can search or, uh, mark. The only competitive game available is disc throwing, which also uses motion controls to fling the disc while the dog catches it. There doesn’t seem to be any real skill involved, either on my end or the dog’s, but I gave her lots of praise and pets for whenever she caught it.
Reaching friendship level 15 finally opens up the Friends plaza, allowing me to adopt multiple pets, including cats. Cat breeds come in three varieties: American Shorthair, Japanese, and Scottish Fold. As you can imagine, cat activities are even more limited since you can’t take them on walks or use them with the disc game. I can wiggle a cat wand in front of them, which is undeniably cute. Up to 12 pets can be adopted, with up to three living in the house at any one time (the rest stay boarded at a pet hotel).
Little Friends: Dogs & Cats is rated E for Everyone. Motion controls are easy enough for little hands to pet their dogs and throw the ball, though some activities work better in handheld mode, and vice-versa.
If you’re looking for Nintendogs on Switch, Little Friends: Dogs & Cats is pretty darn close. It provides pretty much the exact same gameplay as you brush, walk, and care for your pets. If you were hoping for a pet simulator that evolved at least a bit in the last 15 years, you’re going to come away disappointed, however.