101 Shark Pets
DSiWare | Teyon / Selectsoft | 1 Player | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
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26th July 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
When you first bring your aquatic animal home from what I assume is the adoption agency, you'll find him or her swimming around in the pool in your backyard without a care in the world. Before long you'll be pampering your pet and seeing it through to new experience levels. On the top screen of your DSi exists 7 picture icons that track various attributes of your baby shark. Everything from its hunger, thirst, health, happiness, bathroom needs, and sleep; all of these levels are kept track of using a colour scale of up to 10 points. Unless you want the screen to repeatedly flash warning signs, be careful not to find yourself in the red zone. You won't kill the poor thing, but it'll be rough to restore it back to full HP.
The main interface is presented in the form of various icons, placed horizontally and vertically along the left and top sides of the touch screen. Selecting the red plus sign will open up an entire set of icons that directly affect the gauges mentioned earlier. You can feed your pet, use the stylus as a brush to give it a good scrubbin', send it to the bathroom, pet it with a virtual hand, take it for a quick "walk", or force it to take a quick nap. When your creature is in a poor state, you can take it to the veterinarian's for an examination consisting of two mini-games. In the first, you tap heart icons that appear in the playing area when they appear green, and if you're successful, you'll move onto to eliminating a series of bacteria within an isolated area. Coming here is kind of boring, to be honest, but if you feed it well and keep all of the gauges out of the red areas, you shouldn't have to come here that often.
Outside of the caring menu are a series of other options that you can select. For one, you have a Statistics menu that presents you with a track record of how well your pet is doing, as well your high-scores in each of the mini-games. Selecting the door icon will allow you to select from one of four different locations. Other than the backyard area, there are 3 different areas you can transport your pet to: an amusement park, a community center, as well as an underwater view of the backyard pool. Lastly, to access a selection of items, you can either select the brown-coloured bag to access your inventory, or the dollar sign to head to the Pet Shop.
Here you can view multiple "aisles" or categories of stocked items you can purchase to interact with your pet shark. Some sections deal with the personal care of your pet, such as new bowls and brushes, whereas others are for more decorative purposes; applying environmental elements, clothes, that sort of deal. Certain packages will have one or more thunderbolts on the image to signify that the gauges on the top screen will rise at a faster speed when these items are active. At the beginning of the game, the store won't carry a surplus of items, but the catalogue does grow in time, offering you more to choose from. It's just a shame that you can't sell items after they've been purchased, or head to the store to pass time while your shark is having a meal or sleeping.
101 Shark Pets also comes included with 5 different mini-games that can be selected by tapping the green puzzle piece icon. It's not all about fun and games though - achieving good scores in will provide you with money to spend at the shop (and even new unlockables), serving as your main source of income, if you will. Of course, this comes at the price of having your gauges deplete a bit faster than normal, so be careful not to play too much, otherwise you'll tire your pet right out. Each game has multiple levels of difficulty, albeit the activities you'll be performing are never hard even in the slightest.
The simplest of games involve flipping over flash cards to make pairs, completing a simple jigsaw puzzle, or keeping a motorboat away from your shark for as long as possible. Treasure Hunt and Slalom involve the player a bit more. The former has you dragging the stylus to control a small circle to search through a concealed minefield full of coins to bring them to a treasure chest. And Slalom acts like an obstacle course where you move your shark with left and right lines to avoid barrels and other traps. Later you'll need to jump over and/or duck under traps with good timing, which makes things a little more challenging. But once you play it a few times, you'll likely get tired of playing it.
When you're not having fun, you can opt for something of a more serious by trying to train your pet to do tricks. To call out a trick, simply use the guides as a reference as you draw lines using your stylus. Depending on the outcome, you can either praise your pet with a thumbs up, or scold it with a thumbs down. So long as you don't spoil it too much, you can give your shark a fish as a treat for its efforts. Each trick has an energy meter that increases with every attempt. Once the meter has become full, a star will be applied, and the cycle continues until you've mastered the trick with a 5th star.
Periodically, a bulletin will appear on the touch screen, prompting you to accept or decline an offer to sign your pet up for a local competition. You can only proceed with the event if you meet the requirements. The first round is a trick contest where you use your stylus to coach your pet to pull off tricks as directed. In the second round, you move your pet up and down as he scrolls along a set path, consuming helpless blue fish. In both instances, no scoring system is shown at all, but there's evidently some sort of points being tallied behind the scenes. Either way, the conclusion of the competition will award you with a 1st, 2nd or 3rd Place ranking, along with a prize to match your placement. I thought it was odd that you only get a small return for the contest, even if you come out on top. It didn't make a lot of sense that I could get more money by doing well in certain mini-games, and in half the time too.
In light of the above, there's a lot of things you can do with your pet. And it can be hard to put down as you start to find yourself attached to your pet. However, 101 Shark Pets is not without its flaws. Since the mini-games can earn you big bucks in the game, it's annoying to see how tedious things get, to the point where you'll get sick of playing the same ones over and over again. Even with the restrictions this platform imposes, I think having more activities to do with your pet would've done much to add some much-needed variety. As touched on, there are some inconsistencies in the way everything is set up. Another example is in the case of the lairs, resting areas which look like castles you'd see in a goldfish bowl. It's weird that your pet never actually uses the lair to rest, not even the inflatable ones above the surface.
The music in this game could've been a lot better. With only a small number of tracks, the audio loops very regularly. And, on top of that, the sound quality isn't all that great, especially when the game tries to transition between two tracks. The visuals are alright, but I wasn't a fan of the grainy textures seen when you look at your pet from a closer distance. If you take a look at the announcement trailer, you'll notice something about the speed at which the game plays. In particular, the vet clinic and slalom mini-games, as well as the second round of the local competition are all shown with a faster speed than what exists in the game. Compare the two, and I guarantee that you'll wish the game would pick up the pace a bit.
But all in all, 101 Shark Pets is not bad at all. There's a lot of stuff to unlock, different personal care options, and multiple combinations of sharks you can adopt (even if it doesn't really seem like there's over 100 different types). It's a sort of game that definitely appeals to casual gamers who love nintendogs or other virtual pet games. Repeat play is a given here, and while it can easily become a chore once you get into a certain "zone" or routine, it is fun while it lasts.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Personal care and customization options, interface is easy to follow, lots of items of unlock and purchase, mini-games are decent
Presentation 6/10 - Average graphics, music is initially catchy but gets annoying, sound quality isn't always good
Enjoyment 4/5 - Pretty fun, lower the score by one or two points if you're older than 12 years old, activities get boring after lots of plays
Extra Content 4/5 - Two different profiles, 5 different mini-games, good unlockables system, a nice purchase for 500 Points
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)