My daughters (and my wife) really want a dog, despite the fact that my six-year-old is allergic and breaks out in a rash whenever a dog licks her face. But I’m not really a dog person, and I know that as the stay-at-home parent I’d end up doing most of the chores myself. But then I found the perfect dogs for them: they’re quiet, I don’t have to buy dog food for them or clean up after them, and they fit in my pocket. And best of all, they’re free! (Well, sort of.)
Touch Pets Dogs was released for the iPhone in early November by ngmoco, and I’ve had a chance to play with it for a while. It reminds me a lot of Nintendogs, a game my brother had on his Nintendo DS: you pick a puppy, and then you can play with it, teach it tricks, and take care of it. Playing with different toys builds up their skills like Agility or Fetching, and you have to be sure to feed them when they’re hungry and let them out when they need to poop. (Okay, so you do have to clean up after them, but it’s much easier than real dog poop.)
The game is a free download, and you start off with enough puppy bucks to adopt a puppy. There are several breeds available, plus a robot dog. As long as you keep your puppy happy, you earn more puppy bucks which you can spend on other toys, dog treats, clothes and accessories. And if you want, you can buy career passes so you can train your dog to become a rescue dog, crimefighter, scientist, politician, or celebrity. (The careers require certain ability levels and tools, which also cost puppy bucks.)
You can adopt up to five puppies, and then play with up to two of them at a time. Touch Pets also uses the Plus+ network so if you have friends with Touch Pets your puppies can visit each other and have playdates. I haven’t actually tried out this feature and I opted not to have all my puppy statuses published on my Facebook page, but that’s an option too.
My kids (ages six and three) both love playing with their puppies (we earned enough puppy bucks so they each adopted a dog) and quickly learned all the controls. I’ll admit, it is fun to watch the dogs running around chasing the frisbee, and it’s really funny to see one dog get angry if you pay too much attention to the other dog. And just this week my wife got in on the act, and has been playing with her new German shepherd. I think she’s hooked.
The game itself is free, but you can get more food bowls by paying real money for them. (The more recent updates seem to suggest that you’ll never run out of food but I don’t know if they make you wait and slowly build up food, or if you automatically get a refill when you run out.) Or, sometimes you get popup messages when you start the game that will give you food and/or puppy bucks in exchange for downloading and installing some other iPhone game. I ended up doing that once to get 100,000 puppy bucks, because I noticed that some of the things in the store were costing a whole lot more than I had. A big beach ball cost 4,000 bucks, but then the Advanced Bouncy Ball is 290,000 bucks. It takes a long time to get that much money.
I do get a bit tired of the frequent pop-up messages, whether it’s to download something else for free food and money, or the little alerts that are going out to my Plus+ network; usually I just want to play the game.
Overall, I think it’s a really fun app, and my daughters certainly get a kick out of it. The career paths add a little variety to an otherwise fairly repetitive game, and it’s certainly a lot easier than getting a real dog. But somehow I don’t think it’ll keep my wife from browsing the puppy shelter website…
Download Touch Pets Dogs for free (or search for “Touch Pets Dogs” in the iTunes stores for various paid versions which include more food bowls).
Wired: Puppies that are cute and easy to take care of; fun for the whole family.
Tired: Frequent sales pitches and ridiculously-priced items; now my wife is angling for time with my iPod touch.