I’ve always been drawn to the digital pet genre, from my first Tamagotchi, playing online with Neopets, to Nintendogs on my DS. Little Friends: Dogs & Cats for the Nintendo Switch carries on the tradition of digital pet ownership to the current generation of console and handheld gaming.
I am horribly indecisive, so I asked the D1DLC community for some help on what first pet I should pick. The first friend you pick must be a dog, but you can choose from 6 breeds – Shiba Inu, Chihuahua, Toy Poodle, Labrador Retriever, French Bulldog, and German Shepherd. You unlock the Friends Plaza, after reaching friendship level 15 with your dog, where you can pick other pets to join you. When picking a cat, you can chose a from a Japanese Cat, a Scottish Fold, and an American Shorthair. Other than breed, pets can be chosen based on sex, colour, and traits.
You can have 3 pets in your home. The Pet Hotel allows you to have an additional 9 pets cared for, allowing you to own every breed of dog and cat with 3 slots to spare. I’m hoping there may be updates to the game with more breeds made available, but there is no word of that yet from Nintendo.
At home you provide food and water, clean the litter box, brush and pat your pets, dress them up, and play fetch. To play with your cat, you use a toy wand, moving it left and right and using a button input to avoid their swipes. You can only take your dog out of the house, on walks, to play discs (Frisbee), and to enter disc competitions. All these actions will earn you currency and friendship points.
With Little Friends, your dogs automatically learn tricks as you level up your friendship with them, that are performed by simple button inputs. This was less rewarding compared to the experience in Nintendogs, where tricks were performed and mastered with verbal commands.
There are multiple types of currency, seen as different coloured tickets and coins earned for completing activities. The multiple types of currency add unnecessary complication to the game.
You can change the design and layout of your lounge room. I enjoyed placing my pet furniture but I didn’t experiment much with the complete design changes, as I was put off by the cost. If you purchase a design and don’t like it, you must pay to revert back to a previous look (like a real renovation I guess!).
I was disappointed with the limited animation loops for the pets. Most of the cat actions appear to be copies of the dog animations. The dog and cat will behave the same way when excited about food, stretching, when playing fetch, and when being brushed. The cat will interact with cat specific furniture for some variation.
Unexpectedly, I did find some additional use of this game as an idle experience. After you have cared for your pet, and completed any activities with them you’d like to, you can change to Watch Mode. While I was waiting in queue for other games, or procrastinating while writing articles, I could check in on my pets with a quick glance. In Watch Mode there is no active or invasive notification system to notify you when your pets need attention, but it was nice to look across to my Switch or TV screen and see my cat stalking across the living room, or enjoying the cardboard box I just purchased for her.
After 5 days with Little Friends, I couldn’t play the game without other activities happening around me. There isn’t enough to do with the game keep my sole focus, with repeated actions feeling like an unrewarding grind. Players that enjoy relaxed games, and can shut off the “nag” of the busy brain, will get more out of this as a focused gaming experience.
Despite my disappointments with Little Friends, many cold evenings I’ve found myself cuddling up on the couch with Stargate reruns on the TV, while I played with my pets. I also need to note that I don’t have any pets, so this game may fulfil my cat lady needs in a way that real pet owners don’t require.
TLDR: Little Friends has made no improvements on the pet sim genre. If the idea of watching TV and playing with your digital dogs and cats sounds like a pleasant way to spend an evening at home, this is the game for you. I promise, there is no cat vomit to clean up.
Little Friends: Dogs and Cats is now available on the Nintendo eShop, or at your local gaming store.
We thank 5 Star Games for a review copy of this game.