Plugged In

Review: ‘The Dog Island’

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Ubisoft has the video game market cornered on cute. Now, the company that brought gamers “Petz Hamsterz 2” and “Petz Dogz Fashion” has taken cute to the next level with “The Dog Island” for the Nintendo Wii.

But make no mistake, there’s some meat underneath that sugary exterior.

“The Dog Island” features a world made up completely of, you guessed it, dogs. These cute canines, with their large heads and tiny bodies (a visual style reflecting the photos featured in the popular “The Dog, Artlist Collection,”) are dressed up in adorable little outfits like a pirate and a doctor. Like I said, the cute bar has been raised to new heights here.

Thankfully, the gameplay wasn’t sacrificed for the sake of style.

You begin your adventure by choosing from one of the more than 40 breeds of dogs to represent your character. Then it’s off to explore the world one scent at a time in order to find a cure for whatever is ailing your sick sibling. You can interact with any of the other puppies in world, though the conversations are often dreadfully dull.

That’s a shame, too, because you’ll spend a great deal of your time on fetch quests for these other dogs. Upon completing these errands, you’ll often be rewarded with an item or scent that pushes the story forward or unlocks a new area to explore.

Smelling is the primary gameplay mechanic here as you use your sniffer to locate items and discover hidden treasure.

The process of smelling is simple enough, as a meter displays how close you are to a given scent. Of course, you’ll do more than sniff on “The Dog Island.” Your puppy can participate in a variety of mini-games, ranging from fishing to soccer. All control is handled with the Wii remote. Moving your puppy around is as simple as pointing to a location on screen and watching your four-legged friend follow the cursor.

“The Dog Island” reminds me a lot of another quirky, yet surprisingly fun, title on another Nintendo console — the GameCube hit “Animal Crossing.” Coming from someone who still plays “Animal Crossing” from time to time, that’s pretty high praise.

As a game clearly geared toward young gamers, “The Dog Island” succeeds in delivering a deep, yet easily accessible, adventure. Older gamers, though, will likely grow tired of the repetitive fetch quests. Still, “The Dog Island” is a unique experience with a visual style all its own. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Score: 7.3/10