Think of the most off the wall game you could imagine. Would this game involve a dog? Perhaps it involves you taking control of a dog and concentrating on his life. Hip Games Interactive has created a game that allows the user to take control of a dog. What? You heard right, this isn’t a Dogz clone. Think of a full blown Tomogachi with a lot more features and a story line.

Dog’s Life puts you in control of a friendly little pup. Your girlfriend was kidnapped by evil dog catchers and you must save her! Your tasks involve befriending and challenging other dogs and communicating with humans. Of course you don’t talk, you just bark to humans and they react accordingly. When you communicate with other dogs you hear the speech in plain English.

Since the target age of the game is between 6 and 11 you won’t see much eye candy or violence. Your dog can die but it isn’t shown in graphic ways. He can starve to death and fall of cliffs, but if that happens the game starts over. You find food by knocking over trashcans and other such things out in the open. You can tell when the dog is hungry by the look of him. He hangs his head a bit and he looses the spring in his step. Once he eats he is fully recharged and ready to go. There is no energy bar to tell you when you need to feed him; the game is mainly based upon body language. The creator of the game wanted to make something that would be based on body language and wouldn’t require a lot of speech. He chose a dog as his option mainly because he is a dog lover, and this is quite a unique game with a semi-large market for kid games.

You can view your dog from two angles. The views include a 3rd person view that is standard and a view from the eyes of the dog. When you switch to a first person view you can see smells, they vary in color. In order to challenge dogs you must collect smells, which are yellow, red, purple, and orange. Once this is done you can challenge the dog. Each challenge is different and if you lose and challenge the same dog again the challenge may be different. One challenge would be to dig up smells in the ground; another may be territory marking which is done by peeing on the ground in certain spots to create a box. When you win the challenge you become the dog, the reason for this is to do a small quest such as gathering sheep. When you complete the quest you are given a bone. These bones are essential to challenges. If you have more bones than the other dog you are given a better handicap and have a much greater chance of winning.

The controls are simple and when you can perform an action it is displayed on the screen, so help is always available. There is a bit of toilet humor in the game such as the ability to poop, and then pick it up and throw it around. This comes fully loaded with wacky sound clips that give you an audio feel of what is going on. Kids and adults alike will eat this up and laughter is sure to ensue.

The game looks simple, it is visually pleasing but at the same time it is simple. The animation for the dogs is great and was taking from live video of random dogs. Each frame of animation of the video was converted to a frame of animation on the game. At first I thought the game was motion capture, but it then became apparent that such a thing would be difficult with dogs.

I expect this game to be a great hit among kids. Every kid loves dogs, and this gives the chance for a kid to become a dog and play in his world. Since there is a story line to the game there is a point to play and will encourage the gamer to continue to the end. Adults may be appealed to this game because of its simplicity but also for its silly humor.

Expect this game to hit shelves within the coming months. My first impression of the game was kind of off-beat, but after I saw the game in action I was really impressed at how they got such a game to work. The scenery that surrounds the dog’s world is great and works with the game. I would see this game in the hands of many kids in the future, be sure to reserve your copy today.

- Kurt Knudsen