Review: Dog’s Life (PS2)

Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life
Genre: Adventure (Canine)
Platform: PS2
Publisher: HiP Games
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release Date: 09/14/04

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a dog? I do not mean dressing up as a dog and giving that dog more human characteristics, I mean being an actual canine. Well you can never be a dog and no human video game developers can recreate the actual dog experience without using their own point of view but Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life tries to give you a glimpse into being a dog while also being an adventure game. An interesting, if esoteric, combination outside of Japan.



STORY:
Your name is Jake and you are a dog. You are brown and white, enjoy different smells, like food, love bones, and have your eyes on another dog named Daisy. One day while on the farm you see Daisy getting taken away by two odd looking dog catchers. Raising a ruckus, you too are caught by those dog catchers and placed in the back of a truck with other dogs. The truck hits a bump in the road and you are hurtled out of the truck, released from your cage. Daisy is still trapped and so your canine needs compel you to go and rescue the pooch of your dreams.

This story is most definitely a different twist on the â┚¬Å”rescue the princessâ┚¬Â story, but it is still a rescue story.

Story: 4/10

GRAPHICS:
Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life sports rather bland visuals, functional but if you come in expecting something that will make you say: â┚¬Å”Wowâ┚¬Â you will be sorely disappointed. The human character models are stiff and are more like early generation PlayStation 2 graphics. The dogs in Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life are very nice representations of canis domesticus and easily recognizable. The breed of a dog, from Saint Bernard to Chihuahua, are not only easy to spot because of the size difference, but also the way the look. The coats of the dog are nicely done and one of the better touches it that Jake gets dirty as he adventures. Mud and grim accumulate and it adds to the idea that Jake is a hard playing canine.


A major plus for the graphics is the Smell-o-Vision that Jake uses when he is trying to find scents in the current level. The view is a muted set of colors used to simulate what it is like to see the world as a dog. Since dogs have no ability to see colors it is interesting to flip back and forth between the brightly colored â┚¬Å”humanâ┚¬Â view and the flat â┚¬Å”dog viewâ┚¬Â.

Utilitarian is an overused word (especially in my reviews), but that is what comes to mind when describing Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Lifeâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s graphics. They are not meant to amaze, only to get the job done.

Graphics: 5/10

SOUND:
The voice acting in Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life leaves something to be desired. Most of the voices sound forced or flat and the actor who narrates as Jake attempts to feign emotion fail miserably. The different human inhabitants of Jakeâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s world almost always sound bored or pained in speaking. While a few times the voice acting is bad enough to be hilarious (the cabaret piano player and mad scientist being prime examples) the rest of the voices are an annoyance.

The ambient sounds are done rather well. The birds crow, cats meow, cars honk, and trash cans make loud noises. A problem does come from the fact that all large dogs share one bark and all small dogs share a single bark.. Once you meet a toy dog you know how every other dog their size will sound and once you have Jake bark you will know what all the other dogs near his size will sound like. The fact that the dogs share their bark ruins some of the unique experience of Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life and considering this game is about being a dog it stands to reason that the developer would at least try to add more variety in dog noises.

Finally the music in Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life is neither good nor bad, it serves as a background and only a background. On occasion it can begin to grate and annoy but that is more due to the continuous repetition of the tune throughout a level. The score from Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life is nothing to get excited about but it is also not something to be terribly disappointed with.

Sound: 3/10

CONTROLS:
The control scheme of Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life is very simple to use and understand. You control Jake with the left thumbstick and the other tasks are accomplished with use of the directional buttons and game play buttons. Easy to understand and intuitively laid out, this game is responsive and controlling Jake is a breeze. The opening level serves as a tutorial but it only takes a few moments to grasp how to make Jake interact with his environment. The only hindrance to control are a few bad camera angles, but those are few and far between. Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life is a very gamer friendly game with smooth controls and a well thought out button layout.

Controls: 7/10

BALANCE:
Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life is extraordinarily easy. There are only a few troublesome spots in the entire game (mainly the frozen over lake in the ice stage) but even those hurdles are set low to the ground. It is nigh impossible to get Jake killed (though I did manage to when Jake found a criminal hiding in a warehouse and woke up the armed miscreant only to be shot for his heroic deed but it was a big plus to hear Jakeâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s voice actor quote Marvin Gaye by saying â┚¬Å”As Marvin Gaye would say: Whatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s goinâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ on?â┚¬Â). The smell finding quests are extremely simple because of how bright the â┚¬Å”smellsâ┚¬Â stand out on the screen, the jumping challenges never seem to really put Jake in peril, and since every quest in the game is a fetch quest you are never thrown any curve balls. At least there is no stealth level.


When challenge another dog for dominance of a certain level, even if you are considered the underdog, it is rather simple to end up besting your foe. Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life is meant for younger audiences though, so it can be forgiven in some respect for being easy, but it is also a very interesting concept so those looking for a change of pace in their gaming will be bored by the ease in which things are accomplished.

Balance: 2/10

REPLAY ABILITY:
There are missions to be completed in every level that garner Jake bones, the status symbol of the canine community. The more bones Jake has, the easier time he has when challenging other dogs. Collecting all the bones in the game is the only thing that can bring you back to this game, but it is easy enough to do the first time around that the only reason you wouldnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t collect every bone the first time through is because you just want to finish the game.

Replay Ability: 1/10

APPEAL:
A game where you play a dog, to be honest, going to cater to only two sorts of people: children who are attracted to the cover and esoteric video game players who are looking for something much different to pass the time. Adventure gamers may give Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life a chance, but the ease in which you can complete everything in Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life will turn the all but the most game starved adventure fan off.

Appeal: 2/10

ORIGINALITY:
The main character is a dog and you play the game as a dog instead of an anthromorphic interpretation of a dog. The last game I can remember having a protagonist take the role of a semi-accurate portrayal of an animal was Bad Mojo for the PC (which is about to be re-released). The idea of Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life alone is worth the low price point ($19.99) or even just a quick rental to see how Frontier Developments tried to recreate the experience of being a dog. For all its flaws, Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life is a nice little gust of fresh air to cleanse the gaming palate with.

Originality: 9/10

ADDCITIVENESS:
Dogâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Life is cute and playing as a dog is interesting for a time but the novelty wears thin after an hour or so, after youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve become accustom to the game. Making Jake urinate and defecate may hold the attention of the Beavis and Butt-Head set for a bit longer than the average person, but even that lowbrow fun wears thin after the second time making Jake do his business.

Addictiveness: 2/10

MISCELLANEOUS:
You can get Jake killed if you really try hard.

Miscellaneous: 1/10

Ratings:

Story: 4/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 3/10
Controls: 7/10
Balance: 2/10
Replay Ability: 1/10
Appeal: 2/10
Originality: 9/10
Addictiveness: 2/10
Miscellaneous: 1/10