I understand the urge to dress up in cosplay and photoshop myself into scenes with my favorite imaginary characters all to well—that, and an unhealthy obsession with a pre-Tom Cruise Lestat de Lioncourt, are mainly the reason that Anne Rice has personally made sure I am no longer allowed in New Orleans; I also get this stylish beeping ankle bracelet and weekly fan letter from her lawyer telling me to “cease” something or other. So I naturally understand the design behind this game attempting to go make its own fiction while carefully inserting still images of live actors next to the hand drawn, and constantly surprised looking, Linda Hyde and gratuitous use of vampire fiction. I was a little confused by the hidden picture mini-games that kept interrupting the three to four different still images a main character had, but not everything can be perfect.
The above mentioned mini-games managed to be really distracting too, as I would randomly be asked to do something plot related in one and then in another it seemed like a hotel manager was asking me to pick up the garbage in the lobby for him. I am happy to help out, especially when the live action extras used to do it look to be friends of friends who had five minutes free and weren’t clear what was going on, but I am more concerned on my I am being asked to pick up the cat and sandwich and leave the fish corpse just hanging out in the middle of the floor like that. Maybe that is why I appear to be the only person staying at this establishment.
The truth is that while I love the genre, Cool World/Roger Rabbit, sometimes the plot makes it hard for me to not question the validity of cartoon people walking around—such as how did a newspaper editor manage to smuggle a gun through customs and why is he only giving it to the animated reporter/main character after half a dozen murder attempts. That kind of thing just pulls me out instead of becoming even passingly interested at the in depth level of book keeping the game tries to make me aware of. Sadly I would have to recommend a pass on this one.
There were two great mysteries in my life as a child, what jerk of a mother allowed their off spring to circle all of the items in the image find in Highlights in the doctor’s office, and why wasn’t that magazine offered to normal people who weren’t under an oath more awesome and legally binding than the Green Lanterns. At some point during my search for answers the image find section seemed to have found a life of its own, because I guess saying “I have lost my shoe in this room full of fish,” and then gauging other person’s response is no longer how you decide if someone is sane enough to stand trial.
The game is held together, loosely, by a series of in game dialogs that are supposed to explain why I am trying to find one non-descript purse in an apartment just full of purse like objects. These rooms, of course, come with a list of objects that you are supposed to be looking for—while ignoring the more troubling signs of both neglect and possible mental health issues of whatever environment that they are in (who even uses CDs anymore and why is every TV just left on “static” by default). The game calmly asks me to get the character ready for her investigation while asking for things like a laptop and then a towel, I don’t know many people that need a towel when they are about to go gallivanting around the world chasing international museum thieves, but I am pretty sure the list was written by Douglas Adams.
It isn’t that everything in the game is bad, it was interesting to see load times in a downloadable game with simple graphics and almost no sound, and the way that the main character constantly looks surprised by everything that is happening at any given moment in the game is—not charming—depressingly amusing. There is hope, though, as a direct story based sequel to this game has been released to the same e-shop—possibly of hopes of fixing all of the short falls of this title. There may be hope at the end of the road, fans of this odd genre.
I am sure that for every single animal out there someone is simply dying to attempt to train it to become the world’s greatest source of friendship and afterschool entertainment. I too have longed to spend my quiet hours with a hairy nosed wombat that I have poorly trained to do the most mundane tricks imaginable; my knowledge of how highly endangered these amazing creatures are is the only thing that stops me from simply jumping on a plane to Australia, taking the long bus ride to Queensland, trekking illegally into Epping Forest National Park, and then capturing one of the 30 remaining breeding stock of females. Thankfully I don’t have to worry any more as my dreams have come to fruition with the 101 animal series; I can finally own, poorly train, mockingly dress, and force a creature of my choosing (depending on the title) into demoralizing competitions with others of its captured ilk.
This flavor of 101 Pets comes in Dolphin variety, allowing the captive sentient mammalian free rein of the pool behind what I am assuming is supposed to be the player’s ranch style house. While this raises certain questions about the priorities in the way of salt water tanks/pool and exotic creatures expenditures vs. living conditions, it also seems odd that there are pet stores in this world that are happy to sell me various Hawaiian shirts that are form fitting for a dolphin. I have never made that request of a clothier before, but I assume that the police would become involved if it was ever brought up. For some reason in my mind at the end of this scenario it ends with me drunkenly explaining why I also needed my dolphin to have UV protecting sunglasses. The answer, of course, is because he is awesome.
Amusingly hard to justify separation of disbelief aside, the parts of the game that are supposed to be a game never seemed to be that enjoyable. There are a series of mini-games that ask the player to use the touch screen to trace all the similar images for monetary rewards, the problem being that the touch screen is not responsive enough to trace anything let alone a heart less than the size of a dime. All of the games are explained, at great length, through walls of text—which I mostly skipped through because 11 pages is way too much tell me to avoid stars and collect coins while my dude swims. Look, I understand that I have trained Austin (as I have thus named him, after the best Power setting) so little that he could be considered functionally retarded even by animal standards, but I think placing him third in any event where he is the only person on a podium–and probably the only one that entered, is a little harsh.
101 Hawaiian Shirted Dolphins doesn’t fail because of its concept, if anything I would applaud it for allowing me to illegally own one of nature’s most aware beings and forcing it into a small and confined space to amuse me until I got my own afterschool special staring the living Corey. The developers dreamed big with this game, and aiming for the stars should always be commended even when you fail to leave the state and end in a landfill. I simply wanted to spend more time hanging out and high fiving my aqua friend then slowly grinding away at broken mini-games to award him with a sweet new skateboard or something.