Review: Little Friends: Dogs & Cats is a soothing simulation

If there is one area in which the Nintendo Switch is lacking, it is in pet simulations. There were plenty on previous handhelds and consoles, all of varying degrees of quality. In Japan, the Sumikko Gurashi characters have a whole series of sims. But worldwide, there is a tragic cuteness deficiency. Little Friends: Dogs & Cats attempts to remedy that.

Let’s go ahead and get the obvious out of the way. Yes, Little Friends: Dogs & Cats is a Nintendogs-like. To be more specific, it is most similar to Nintendogs + Cats. You are a person in need of new animal friends who happens to have a rather large home, generous benefactors and enough room in your heart for up to 12 animals. As you raise and care for the animals, you will “level up” your relationship with them. This will give you more of the items you need to care for them and customize your home, as well as allow you to let more fuzzballs into your life. Think of it as a relaxed, safe space on your Nintendo Switch.

It’s important to know that Little Friends: Dogs & Cats isn’t some sort of complex simulation in which people will train these pets, watch them grow to show more genuine displays of affection and experience a nuanced pet/owner partnership.

It’s important to know that Little Friends: Dogs & Cats isn’t some sort of complex simulation in which people will train these pets, watch them grow to show more genuine displays of affection and experience a nuanced pet/owner partnership. Animals aren’t going to die from lack of proper nurturing. This a more simplistic affair that focuses on the essentials. You start off with a pet dog, and you must level that relationship up. Aside from some tricks the dog will “automatically” learn at certain plateaus and a gradual increase in frisbee-catching ability, they will largely behave the same at level one as they would at level twenty-one. Once you reach level 15 with that dog, you can add another cat or dog to your household. Lather, rinse and repeat the process until you have a full household, unlock all the possible items you can purchase in the store and find you have had your fill of a fluffy friend.

Taking care of every critter in Little Friends: Dogs & Cats isn’t terribly taxing or time consuming. When you load up the game, it shows how bored, dirty, hungry and thirsty each one is under their name, with clearly colored and filled circles indicating how much work must be done. No matter how hungry or thirsty an animal is, one serving is enough to restore them. (Some prefer different varieties of food, which can offer morale boosts.) Cleaning involves some brief brushing, either with the Joy-Con or via the touchscreen. Making them happy again can be a bit trickier, since sometimes it might seem like petting is having a negligible difference on the gauge and certain animals’ personalities might mean you have to spend some time discovering what they like. Unfortunately, you have to sit and watch the game tell you how to perform different actions, like petting or walking a pet, each time you load a save for the first time. (Yeah, no, we’ve got it.)

Earning money is no problem, so all that maintenance isn’t too costly. Actions in the home, like tossing a toy around, earns you a few coins for your troubles. Taking a dog on a walk will provide ample opportunities to send them to a search spot to get hundreds or thousands of coins. Entering a dog in a frisbee competition is a good way to earn a few thousand coins each time too. Not to mention, an unseen parent will occasionally give you 10,000 gifts. (Thanks, virtual mom!) Since toys have different levels of durability and eventually need replacing, every little bit helps. But if one does break, it’s no big deal. You can get a new one soon enough.

But, Little Friends: Dogs & Cats can be a little limiting. There are only nine different kinds of cats and dogs, with three cat breeds and six dog varieties available. Three can be with you at a time, while another 12 can be boarded. Each animal can only go up ten levels each day. There will be points where your animals will be completely satisfied, at which point the only thing you can do is exit the game and do something else for a few hours until they need you again. It doesn’t allow you to monkey around with the internal clock to “time travel” and unlock everything more quickly. You need to go in knowing that you will very likely need to play in about fifteen minute increments a few times each day for a few weeks to acquire most of the things you might want.

This is also a situation where some pets are better than others; you better be a dog person if you’re picking up Little Friends: Dogs & Cats!

This is also a situation where some pets are better than others; you better be a dog person if you’re picking up Little Friends: Dogs & Cats! You have to start with a dog in the game. Dogs get better toys, as you can have them play with a ball, bone, or frisbee. You can take them on walks around a little wooded area, which can really help with experiences boosts when you let one sit in front of a statue and howl. There are frisbee contests that to provide a very slight challenge. (All you do is essentially press A repeatedly for two minutes.) Cats… well… sit in the home and be cats. They’ll play with the dogs’ balls and bones and derive joy from the experience, even though those are designated as “dog toys.” You can wave a cat wand at them. But, by and large, they’re second class citizens. Which is honestly rather accurate, since owning a dog in real-life involves more interaction opportunities than owning a cat.

Also, cats don’t look as visually appealing in Little Friends: Cats & Dogs. The dog models look great. The German Shepherd, Shiba Inu, Chihuahua, and other breeds are spot on. Their faces are warm, friendly and expressive. The cats look vaguely cat-like, but don’t have the same amount of detail to them. Maybe it is that the eyes are too wide or something minor, but there is an uncanny valley effect in play. In addition, the three kinds of cats are all essentially variants of the same shorthaired cat. There are no different body sizes or shapes. We don’t have a longhaired breed, like a Persian. If you thought Japanese Cat meant something like a Japanese Bobtail with a different looking tail, you’d be wrong!

Little Friends: Cats & Dogs is a relaxing refuge. It is a safe place you can go to interact with cute animals that don’t require too much attention and will always unconditionally love you. It may not be incredibly deep, but something simple and uncomplicated is all someone needs sometimes. People who love dogs will get a lot more out of it than cat fans, but it is still a pleasant and positive experience.

Score: 7/10
Publisher: Sold Out
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Developer: Neilo
Platform(s): Switch
Questions? Check out our review guide.
A review copy was provided by the publisher or developer for this review.

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