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Dog's Life
Score: 93%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Hip Interactive
Developer: Frontier
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:
"No school, no chores, no clothes!" But what you do have is races, chicken chases, tug-o-wars and much more in the dog-sniff-dog world of Dog's Life.

The many landscapes throughout Dog's Life are large, highly detailed and vast. Each location has a wide variety of characters, objects and even weather conditions. The character models aren't the best to hit the PS2, but they aren't the worst either. On average, the dogs and other animals look pretty good, but the people always tend to come off as angular and blocky.

What probably stood out the most in Dog's Life (as far as graphics are concerned) was the blurriness of objects and areas on the far end of the landscape. The closer you get, the crisper and more defined the surroundings become. I don't think I fully appreciated this technique until I was standing still and a car was driving towards me. It was a nice effect that really sold the game to me.

The background music throughout this game is a mellow tune that stays behind the scenes and doesn't interfere whatsoever. The voices come off nicely as the kids and people talk to Jake (your main pooch) about their problems.


Gameplay:
Miss Peach (a local cat lover) has hired two men to roam the countryside looking for dogs of many shapes and sizes. One such captured canine is Daisy, the love of Jake's life. You must control Jake as he moves from town to town following the dog-nappers in order to free Daisy and all of the other missing dogs.

Dog's Life is full of locations (from Clarksville to Boom City), people, dogs and smells that will help you stop Miss Peach before she finishes her dastardly deed (whatever that may be). In each location, there are several mini-games to complete. But the best part of Dog's Life is that you don't have to complete all of these games, really just the bare essentials in order to challenge other dogs. But if you are a completest bastard like I am, then you will find it hard to leave a location without finishing all of the activities available to you.

How well you fair against another dog in a mini-game depends on the relative strength of that dog. How can you tell how strong a dog is? By its Bone-Rating. When you approach a dog, a number appears above that dog -- if Jake has a higher number, then he will probably do better in a competition against this dog. To get a higher Bone-Rating, you need to complete mini-games and thus collect more bones.

You go into mini-games by finding all of the scents of a certain color ... what? That can't be right? Scents? Colors? Yes that's what I typed. To see the scents, you must enter into "Smellovision" mode. In this mode, you move from third-person to first-person and all of the colors get muted out. The only real color left comes in the form of clouds. Pass through these scent-clouds to get closer to a mini-game.

The mini-games break into three categories: Common Scent Collection, Top Dog Contests and Challenges. Common Scent Collection is what it sounds like, find all of the same colored scents in a certain amount of time.

Top Dog Contest are tug-o-wars, digging races, scent-marking challenges and more. It is after winning one of these challenges that you are able to control a dog for a limited amount of time and reach a bone that only he can get to.

The last category of challenges is basically a catch all. Here is where you will learn new tricks in Doggy Do, and other miscellaneous mini-games.

Along with the mini-games, you can also gain bones by helping people in each location. You can tell if you are supposed to get a bone from them if they have a gold-colored scent.

Along your way, you will also have to care for Jake's health. Hidden throughout the places are various foods -- If Jake gets hungry or weak, you will know by how hard it is to control him.


Difficulty:
Dog's Life isn't generally a hard game. In most cases, you can complete a mini-game or puzzle in one try (provided you have gathered enough bones). Yet there were several times when I had to go through a challenge two or three times before I could finish it successfully (these were typically the scent collection games).

Though Dog's Life isn't difficult, it is still fun collecting bones in order to out-do local dogs.


Game Mechanics:
Dog's Life's controls are fairly simple and easy to use. You move and look around with the two analog sticks, while using the D-Pad buttons to perform tricks and the face buttons to perform actions.

X is used to jump, while Square barks and growls, Triangle toggles Smellovision and Circle is the Action button. It's all rather straightforward, and once you get into the game, you should have no problems getting Jake on his way to find Daisy.

Unfortunately, moving Jake in a precise direction or lining him up in particular ways is a bit daunting. I found that when I had to get Jake to jump on top of something -- it was a major hassle to make sure I didn't have him too far or too close to the object.

Dog's Life is a fun game for pretty much anyone -- though parents might be offended by the extensive (and sometimes overuse of) fart jokes. There is no blood and gore and probably the most gruesome act that can be done is picking up a cat and shaking it around some (don't worry - the cat only gets dazed). All in all, it's a good time.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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