Virtual Pet games for the Nintendo DS are nothing new. Interactive electronic toys that move, beep and make sounds based on how you touch them have been around for a few years. Wappy Dog from Activision and Sega Toys marries a virtual pet game with an interactive dog, and this is something very new. With Wappy Dog, virtual pets have become less virtual, more real and that is a very good thing.
What Do You Get When a Virtual Pet Turns Into an Electronic Toy?
We got our first glimpse of Wappy Dog in prototype form in February 2011 at the Toy Fair. At that point we could only see a demo of Wappy Dog, but now we have had a chance to live with Wappy Dog and fully test him (or is it her?) in a real world setting.
When you buy Wappy Dog you get a cartridge for the Nintendo DS and an electronic Wappy Dog. After putting three AA batteries in Wappy Dog he quickly comes to life and starts making sounds, moving his head and lights up. Plug in the Wappy cartridge and your Nintendo DS turns into a Wappy communicator.
Wappy is really something which is much easier understood when you see him in action. Let’s take a look at our video review of Wappy Dog -
What Can You Really Do With Wappy Dog?
The whole idea of Wappy Dog is that you are training and raising your interactive puppy to a full grown and happy Wappy dog. There are two ways to play with Wappy Dog – Home Mode and Travel Mode. In home mode you use your Nintendo DS to interact with the electronic Wappy Dog toy. As the video shows, you can play mini-games with Wappy, feed him, groom him, talk to him and try to keep Wappy happy.
As you play with Wappy in Home Mode, the electronic Wappy Dog is responding directly to what you do on the DS. Ask Wappy what he wants to do and the Wappy toy might say “Aarf, Aarf, Ooph, Hmm” while tilting his head. Since you don’t speak Wappy, you will look at your DS screen and see that Wappy just said “Let’s play target practice“.
Travel Mode allows you do to download Wappy’s heart onto your DS and play with with Wappy as a completely virtual pet. In this mode, Wappy Dog plays very much like the other virtual pet games. Parent’s will love the fact that they don’t have to take the physical Wappy Dog on every trip they make. Kids can play and care for Wappy in travel mode and then when they get home transfer Wappy’s heart back to the physical Wappy.
Wappy Dog Is Not A Remote Controlled Robotic Pet
It is important to understand that Wappy is not a robotic pet that you move around and control with your Nintendo DS. No one is going to mistake Wappy for a super sophisticated robotic dog. Wappy’s movements are limited to his head turning and his front paws moving. With its own personality and more than 350 evolving responses, Wappy is really more about being a companion that you play video games with, rather than a robotic dog you control.
Wappy is many things, but soft and cuddly he is not! As the video shows, Wappy is made of plastic and while the color changing eyes and cheeks make Wappy look very cute, he is not something you would snuggle with. If you child is looking for another stuffed animal, Wappy is not the right toy. Unless of course your child is into stuffed animals made of hard plastic and stuffed with sophisticated electronics….to each his own.
Is Wappy Dog More Than A Gimmick?
In a word – YES! As the video shows, when you play a mini-game with Wappy, he reacts to what is happening in the game. Not sure what to play next? Ask Wappy and he will tell you. Forget to feed Wappy and prepare to hear some whining. While none of these elements on their own sound significant, add them all together and it makes for a very interactive experience where it actually feels like you are playing with a friend…a robotic, dog shaped friend with blue ears, but still a friend. It is hard to explain, but having a physical toy that represents your virtual pet really enhances the enjoyment of caring for a virtual pet.
Who Will Love Wappy Dog?
If your kids love virtual pet games, you can be pretty sure that Wappy Dog will end up on their holiday wish list this year. Wappy will probably be more popular with girls, but we had plenty of boy testers who loved Wappy. Kids who like mini-games and games where you level up and unlock things will also love Wappy Dog. If you have kids who are more into fast paced, shooter based video games, Wappy will probably not be on their list of most wanted games.
Conclusion: Wappy Dog Shows Technology Can Improve Gameplay
As much as we love technology, we are easily frustrated by toys that add technology just to create a Wow factor without enhancing game play (yes, we are looking at you Monopoly Live). Strange as it sounds, adding an electronic interactive pet really adds a great deal to a virtual pet game. I never really cared if my dog in a virtual pet game was hungry, but when the physical Wappy Dog starts whining and looking sad, I feel much more compelled to feed the dog!
Overall, the whole Wappy Dog experience works very well. Playing games against Wappy is fun, as is playing games where Wappy is helping you out. You do need to be in a somewhat quiet environment as Wappy takes his cues from sounds (which us humans can’t hear) from the Nintendo DS. In our testing in a home environment, we had no problems with Wappy picking up our commands.
At a very reasonably priced $50 , Wappy Dog provides a great deal of bang for the buck. Wappy provides enough interaction to keep things interesting and highly entertaining. If your child has a Nintendo DS (or 3DS) Wappy Dog would make a perfect present this holiday season.
Best For What Age Range? 5 – 12
Best For What Audience? Kids who like virtual pet games or mini-games.
Requires Advanced Video Game Skills? No.
Wappy Dog is very easy to use, play and understand. Even kids who have never played video games can have a lot of fun with Wappy Dog.
Wappy Dog Website (by Activision). Rated E for Everyone. Price – $49.95
Purchase Wappy Dog from Amazon.Com
Watch Our Video Review of Wappy Dog
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