As somebody who’s current living arrangement does not allow for four-legged friends, I must instead make do with companions of the virtual variety. Little Friends: Dogs and Cats is a game that gives you the opportunity to adopt your very own furry friends, without any of the financial or emotional stress a real life companion comes with.
To start out you get to choose your new canine best friend; you’re given a choice of six different breeds, all with a variety of fur colours, genders and temperaments – My choice was a German Shepherd named Ghost (Yes it’s a Game of Thrones reference). After getting Ghost home the game suggested that maybe he was a little nervous in his new surroundings, and I should pet him to make him a little more relaxed. I happily obliged, using the touch screen of the Switch to scratch under his chin until he was happy and starting to warm to me- you can use either the screen of the switch or the joy-cons to ‘pet’ your friends, both options feel satisfyingly tactile, it’s almost like petting an actual dog, almost.
As you take care of your dogs and cats, their friendship level with you will increase, unlocking anything from new tricks to a whole new look for your house. You can only gain 10 levels per pet a day though, and to unlock the friend’s plaza which allows you to adopt another dog (or your first cat), you have to get your first friend to level 15, so it’s worth bearing this in mind when you first load the game up.
There are several ways you can ‘care’ for your new friends, the first is to pet and clean them – you will be cleaning them often, even if you don’t take them outside it seems as though your house has a never-ending supply of mud hidden away somewhere that they are constantly in and out of. Secondly, you have to take care of their basic needs, feeding them, providing water and cleaning out the ‘toilet’. The food requires you to take a trip to the shop to pick up some dog and cat food, the quality available to you increases as your friendship level does – and each pet will have a different ‘favourite’ food, feeding them it will help level them up faster and make you feel like the best pet parent ever.
Once your animals are fed, watered and clean. They should be pretty happy, but you can increase this even more by playing with them, there are a couple of different ways to do this; the cats have an exclusive option where you can play with a cat wand, trying to keep it out of their paws as you swipe it left and right across the screen. Your other option is to throw one of the many toys you can pick up in the store, mainly balls and bones that smell, sound and bounce differently depending on which one you pick up. Both dogs and cats will engage in this, although as far as I can tell only the dogs will bring the toys back, the cats just seem to chase it around the floor, pouncing on it several times before losing interest.
One of the fastest ways to level up your dogs is to take them outside, you can take them on walks to the local park where you go round and round and round a track (for the first few walks it’s lovely and picturesque, but after the 100th, it would be nice to have the option of a second or third location). There are also optional objectives for them to mark, dig and walk a certain distance that grants you extra ‘tickets’ which can be used in the game to buy one of the many, many things the shop has to offer.
Another ‘going out’ option you have is to enter in the ‘Dog Disc Competitions’, ranging from beginner to master, you have to face off against two other dogs to see who can get the most amount of points from successfully catching a frisbee- the higher friend level you are, the better your dog is at catching the discs. While this feature is fun the first couple of times, a bit like the walks, once you’ve done it once, it’s just more of the same.
While dressing your animals up in real life is somewhat of a hot topic in the real world, in the world of Little Friends, you’re spoiled for choice. As your friendship level increases (are you seeing a pattern here?) new styles will pop up in the store for you to buy, and you can adorn your dogs and cats in anything, sunglasses, jackets, neckerchiefs, there’s even a Santa you can have ride around on their back should that take your fancy.
There is definitely favouritism towards the canine companions in Little Friends, not only are the models slightly better compared to their feline counterparts but you have more choice in breed and more options for interacting with them, and while I know very few people take their cats on walks in the real world, it’s a game, let me take my kitty on a stroll!
Little Friends: Dogs and Cats is obnoxiously adorable, you will find yourself getting oddly attached to your little pack of friends, the first time your dog jumps up when you pet it, or the little tippy tappy dance they do when waiting for you to throw a toy will melt your heart; I found I would wake up in the morning only to feed and care for my virtual animals before I made my own breakfast. It’s not the kind of game you can sit for hours on end playing, it gets far too repetitive far too quickly for that. Instead, it’s the kind of game you can pick up for half an hour at a time when you need to chill down at the end of the day, or at the beginning, now if you’ll excuse me, Ghost needs feeding…
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*