Kittens. They’re undeniably cute. If you deny that kittens are cute, there’s just something wrong with you. The fact that kittens are cute is proved by the ongoing internet phenomenon known as LOLCats. When Nintendo released the pet sim game Nintendogs, all I could think of while playing was, “Sure this is fun, but I’d rather play a similar game with kittens. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.
Crave Entertainment read our minds and released Purr Pals. Originally released as a DS game last year, the game has been ported over to the Wii console recently with some new additions and with the addition of motion control.
I never played the DS version of the game so the Wii version is a completely fresh experience to me, and the game has released at a perfect time for me to make a comparison to the real deal. Seven weeks ago I adopted kittens, Niko and Bella. So how does the virtual pets compare to the real ones?
When you turn on Purr Pals, the first thing you need to do is adopt a kitten. You start the game with a certain amount of money, and you certainly start off with enough to adopt any one of the 40 breeds of cats represented in the game. These are the same amount of breeds available in the DS version, but either way, this is a significant improvement to the amount of breeds that are usually represented in this type of game. My wife loves horse games and there are only ever a couple of breeds available in those games. Even in Nintendogs you are limited to a certain amount of breeds depending on which version you buy. So when it comes to breed selection, big thumbs up.
Once you’ve chosen a breed, you are given the chance to customize your kitten in a few different ways. Pattern, eye color, whisker color, nose type, fang type, claw type. With these options you can design almost whatever kitten you want to own. I attempted to recreate one of my own kittens in digital form, but I wasn’t able to chose the color of the pattern so I was unable to make a kitten that match either of my kittens. This was sort of disappointing. Instead, I made an American Shorthair Calico. One of the odd things about the different options is that you can have some really unnatural colors. You can make a vampire cat, complete with red glowing eyes, fangs, etc. I mean if that’s the sort of thing you want to do.
Then I named my cat, I went with Chester. After the Cheetah mascot for Cheetos. I was hungry.
After that, you are dumped into a virtual house along with the cat with the remainder of your money. From then on, it’s trying to take care of the kitten. In order to do so, you must monitor four different meters: Hunger, Cleanliness, Love, and Playfulness. At first I was sort of confused as I thought I needed to keep these bars full, but, in fact, that’s the opposite of what you are supposed to do. My kitten got pretty hungry before I realized this. Oops. It is my fault for ignoring the game instructions though, as the game is pretty clear on what you have to do.
Different breeds require different management. When you are looking at the breed selection you’ll be able to tell which breeds require more attention to different attributes. American Shorthairs need a lot of food and need to play a lot. My real life kittens need a lot of food and to be played with, so that works. Of course here’s where my problems begin. You see, in order to feed, buy toys, new litter or anything else for your kitten, you have to buy items from the money you have. The only thing is that everything in the game is really expensive.
The food costs $5-$5.50 a bag. My virtual kitten seemed to want to eat a whole bag of food three times a day. This kitten must eat better than I do, because I don’t spend that much a day for food for myself. Good lord, my virtual kitten would gain like 20 pounds and get kitty diabetes in a month. A mouse costs $20! Yarn costs $8!. I know the economy is rough right now, but when a ball of yarn costs $8, then we are definitely in a recession.
There are multiple way of gaining more money in order to buy the items required to take care of your pet. There are mini-games within the game that you can play to earn cash. There are eight of them in total. I’ll list them out here:
Music: Cats meet Guitar Hero. On screen there are four cats gathered around a microphone and there are boxes at the bottom of the screen. When the music you select starts, notes will fall from the top of the screen to the bottom. Then you are supposed to point the Wiimote at the right box when the note passes through it and press the B button. When that happens the cats meow the note. Remember the dogs that bark jingle bells? It’s like that with kittens instead. In fact, Jingle Bells is one of the songs. This game was originally featured in the DS version of the game and really seems better suited for the touch screen interface than for the Wii remote. The Wii remote makes this game sort of frustrating. Anyway, there are three different difficulty settings, each with three songs in them ranging from Jingle Bells to classical music.
Mouse Hunt: Stealth games meet kitten sim. There’s a kitten patrolling back and forth and you control the mouse. By control I mean you hit one button to move the mouse from one piece of cover to the next, attempting to get the mouse across the garage. It’s really simple and there’s really nothing to it.
Ping-Pong: My personal favorite of the game. In this game there’s a ping-pong table much like the Wii Play ping-pong game. You use the remote to control a paddle hovering in mid-air and on the other side of the table? Your kitten, who just happens to be a Ping Pong master. I’m not kidding. I can’t explain why but it always strikes me as hilarious to see my created kitten hitting the ball back at me. Unfortunately this game has a problem where the ball will sometimes clip through your paddle and the hit detection is all sorts of off.
Alley-Oop: A basketball game where you use the Wiimote to throw basketballs granny style (between your legs rising up) into a small basket. If you get near enough your kitten will slam-dunk it for you. It’s kind of hard to get it to work properly all of the time, but it is awful cute when the kitten makes a slam-dunk.
Memory: A Simon type game. There are four cats in a barrel that are separated by the colors red, green, yellow and blue. When a cat pops out of a certain colored area you memorize it then repeat that same area using the Wii remote.
Putting: A mini-golf style mini-game where you can use the remote like a golf putter to try and sink as many shots as possible. I hate this mini game for several reasons. One, you have to put right handed. I’m left handed. Two, the meter to show how much power you are using for the shot is awful. Three, your kitten pounces between the holes and will occasionally stop your ball from going in. As if the game design didn’t already make it hard enough to do that already.
Cupid: Two kittens sit on a wall and inflatable hearts rise from them on each side of the screen. The remote cursor turns into a crosshairs for shooting arrows into these hearts. This is another game that was also in the DS version that I think probably works better on a touch screen since the aiming and timing of shooting these hearts doesn’t seem very accurate.
These games range from sort of broken to okay. But you have to play them in order to earn more money, at least initially. The biggest problem with the whole game is not only how expensive everything is, but how little money is rewarded for doing all of these mini-games and how quickly your kitten’s meter rises. When you play these mini-games the meters continue to rise, so don’t get too caught up in earning money to buy food , or the kitten might just get it’s hunger meter into the red. After you feed it. you will likely need to play with the kitten or groom them or empty the litter box. Then you’ll have only a short period of time where you can play a couple of games to earn enough money to buy the next bag of food before it’s time to feed the kitten again.
Another way of earning money are shows. Shows are pretty much grading how well you took care of your kitten over a certain period of time, be it one day or multiple days. If you have the patience to play the mini-games and earn just enough money to keep your kittens meters into the green, the whole time period you can earn a decent amount of cash at least.
At the end of the day you get an allowance based on different factors, such as state of the litter box, how much money you earned, etc. It’s not very much money though.
So that’s what you can experience inthe game. I’ll go over the technical aspects in a second, but read what I wrote above, and repeat over and over and that’s Purr Pals.
Graphically speaking, the game isn’t much of an improvement over a DS game. It certainly isn’t challenging the Wii hardware at all. The kittens look cute…but also look sort of blocky. The kitten in No More Heroes? Adorable. The kittens in Purr Pals? Only okay. I’m the kind of crazy cat owner who squeals over kittens, but I didn’t squeal about these kittens. The house surroundings are okay but are also not much of a graphical upgrade from a DS game. The nice part about the house is that you can unlock the ability to redecorate your surroundings. So if you just hate the house you can change it. The most noticeable problems come from the animation and clipping problems. The kittens are just animated really poorly. They don’t move like real kittens.
A perfect example is when the virtual kitten goes to pounce on an object, it will run at the object then for some reason appear to be hovering in mid air doing what looks like the breast stroke before landing then laying down next to the object. If the kitten rolls, it will seemingly skip some frames of animation and be facing the other direction. The kitten will occasionally clip through objection, like many of the toys you use to play with the kitten with.
Sound is also awkward. For the main parts of the game in the house there is simply no music, including the creation parts of the game. It’s just oddly silent. The sound effects used for the kitten are just bad. How hard could it be to record real kitten sounds? My kitten Niko meows all the time! The sound of the kitten running across the floor just sounds like thump, thump, thump. It sounds like a miniature elephant is crossing the room. The meow noises sound like a human saying meow. The purring sounds extremely artificial, which considering the title is called Purr Pals I’d expect more effort into.
One of the best and most frustrating parts of the game is the Wii motion controls. You use them for every detail of the game. You scoop litter, pet, groom, and play with the kitten using the remote. This is great for things like moving the string and even tipping bags of food into a food dish. Oddly whenever you throw something, the game wants it thrown underhanded, and there are specific motions for some things that just don’t work very well or require you to hold the remote at odd angles. Still, for the most part the motion controls work well for this style of game.
You have the ability to adopt multiple cats if you have the money, but you can only play with the kittens at different times. The kittens will never be in the same room as each other, which I don’t understand. Watching my guys fight is half the fun of owning them. Considering how quickly the mini-games become repetitive and how the game plays nearly the same no matter which breed you chose, I don’t see much of a reason to keep coming back to the title weeks later.
While Purr Pals might seem like a Nintendogs clone, and it does borrow liberally from that game, there are a lot of little things that are done to make the game more fun than your usual pet sim game, such as the fun but unrealistic mini-games, the ability to create some bizarre cats, and a collection/dress up system that is meant to be funny. You can unlock the ability to dress your cat up as a pirate or Abe Lincoln, or even some more far out costumes. The problem is a lot of the casual fantasy aspect of the game don’t mesh well with the sim portions. You can’t just have fun with the mini-games because you need to constantly take care of the kitten. You can’t just focus on taking care of the kitten because you need to play the unrealistic mini-games in order to buy the items needed to take care of it. The game is bi-polar.
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Decent Final Rating: Below Average Game
Short Attention Span Summary:
It’s kind of sad because I’ve been waiting for the cat version of Nintendogs and in many ways Purr Pals brings that experience to the Wii and even goes steps further with adding more breeds and several items to collect. How your virtual kitten requires constant care, yet at the same time you need to play silly mini-games in order to barely make enough money to feed it, it become more of a job to take care of the kitten than it is fun. But if you like pet simulators, love kittens, and have a Wii, then $29.99 isn’t a bad price for the game and you’ll probably enjoy the experience.