Hello everyone, this is Bond_Of_Fury with a review of the PlayStation 2 children's game Dog's Life. As a 12 year-old boy, I always used to play this with my little cousin as a means of keeping him entertained when he and my aunt and uncle came over for visit. I didn't really expect anything much from this game, seeing as it's just a children's game on a first look. However, I actually came to adore this game and I've always had fond memories of it. So much even, that I just bought it off of the internet a few days ago, just to be able to play it again. Seems like I've enjoyed it way more than I should have. Errr... well, here we go.
Let me tell you a bit about the plot first. The story is nice and simple for a children's game. In Dogs Life, you play as a dog named Jake, who lives on a farm. Jake has a crush on a lady dog who lives there too, named Daisy. Unfortunately, the feeling is not entirely mutual. One day, Jake and Daisy are being captured in cages, and sent off in a truck by two men. Jake's cage fell out of the truck, and Jake managed to escape his cage. Jake decides to head off and to save Daisy. But he quickly discovers the reason why he and Daisy were taken away. That's basically the plot of the game. Nice and simple, easy to follow for kids. I've seen children's games that had deeper storylines, where even my 19 year-old brain had to stay on 'Active' to be able to follow it all. But this, this is nice. I like it. Two paws up.
I started up the disc, and instantly noticed the long load times... Well, that's one of the things in which the video game industry has evolved, has it? I think it has. *checks off on list* It took a good minute before the publisher's logo appeared on screen, and I had to wait even longer when I had to create a new save file. I don't remember this bothering me so much as a kid... Maybe I was more patient then, I dunno. Oh well. *belches*
They say everything has been done before. That's probably what crossed developer Frontier Games's mind as well. We've been a space marine about a billion times already. We've already saved the world as some unnaturally good-looking guy. Frontier Games dared to do something new. You get to be a dog, and do just about everything a dog can do. You can bark, growl, eat, sit down, beg, you name it. What gives the game a truly unique feel is Smellovision. No, that's not a typo, you grammar nazis. With Smellovision, you can pick up scents to find bones you need to befriend other dogs who help you on your journey. Every 'type' of scent has a different color. Finding so many scents of one color rewards you with either a bone, sets a time trial, or lets you face off against the local dog. Let me tell you that the levels are quite big, by the way. And tracking down all 50 purple scents in a level with Smellovision really lets you explore every last inch of the map.
However, not all the controls are as good. Running takes a while to get used to, since turning is quite realistic in this game. Instead of pushing the left analog stick 'down' to turn around, you have to push it 'up' first, and push it clockwise (or counter-clockwise, whatever floats your boat) until Jake is completely turned around. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, on the contrary; this is very realistic. It just takes a while to get used to, and it can make certain parts where the camera is fixed pretty frustrating. There is a snow level in which you have to climb a mountain to retrieve someone's hat, but I kept falling off of that rotten cliff. A children's game actually made me swear because I couldn't beat a certain part. Go figure.
I personally have mixed opinions regarding the visuals. The CGI cutscenes look neat, the in-game environments look bright and colorful and Jake's model looks neatly worked out. Although that last doesn't quite apply for the rest of the character models. Everyone but Jake looks pretty stiff. There's some minor texture pop-in here and there, and sometimes Jake's legs are sweeping around as if that poor guy is having a seizure. That's what I call laziness from the visual development team! Or maybe it's just ignorance, but I doubt that. *derp*
The audio keeps clipping and flickering. At certain points, the background music even disappears entirely. This happens often when you're close to a radio show which you can listen to, which causes the music to fade out. However, a glitch of some sort causes the music to disappear like this even when you're nowhere near a radio at all. And that's a shame, because there is some great music to be found in this game. I could personally listen to the funky guitar-playing hippie for hours. Most of the sound effects are lackluster, like the screeching sound of a wheel-spinning truck, or the annoying repetitive things random NPC's say. When you retrieve a brain-dead lumberjack his axe, he keeps on blabbering the same line over and over again. And that redneck accent. Oh man...! “Ah love mah axe!” “Yippi-Ya-Kah-Yay!” *pulls out hair*
Even though this is a children's game, I wouldn't advice a responsible adult to play this with their kid. Sure, the age rating says “3+”, but there are quite a few things in this game that are just... wrong. There might even be some subliminal messages in this game. The radio crier keeping wanting to be 'punished', ms. Peaches saying that every one of her children are 'pussies', you name it. There are a couple of really memorable moments though, and some of the jokes are quite laughable. Listen to the radio broadcast in the Boom City hotel, and see what I mean. To further emphasize how crude this game could be for a children's game, the game's antagonist gets killed in a rather brutal way. There's a video of it on YouTube, watch it, and once again see what I mean. But hey, most young children won't understand half of it and I got a good laugh out of it. So this game has some adult themes. Could be a good thing, could be a bad thing. You decide.
In the end, when all of my viewpoints are thrown into a large vat and ultimately mixed together, I think this game is very underrated. It didn't got the appreciation that it deserved. Sure, it looks ugly here and there, the audio keeps lagging and bugging, and it might make parents think wrong. But that's really it. Dog's Life is unique. You can do anything a dog can do, the levels are large and there's a lot of stuff to do. If I were to rate this game, I would give it 3 out of 5 paws. A solid score for a solid game.
- Levels are large
- Smellovision makes for unique gameplay
- Story is simple
- Has some adult themes
- Long load times
- Audio lags every now and then
- Character models look sloppy
- Has some adult themes
Begging that man for a treat after you hit him in the nuts with an egg might not do you well, Jake.