Bottom line: If your kids are begging for a puppy after watching 101 Dalmations, you might want to get them this app for fun, but it needs a bit more instruction.
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I used to have a dog as a companion. Annie was a Manchester Terrier and adorable – I really miss her. So I can confirm that, based on personal experience, a dog is a LOT of work and a huge, daily commitment that you make for the pup's lifetime. After playing with DogWorld 3D: My Dalmation, by Tivoli Publishing GmbH, I can tell you that virtual dogs, on the other hand, are not hard work. They are always fun and they never poop.
Open the app and your child will find a spotted puppy lying on the rug snoring. The first thing your kid is asked to do is name their dog. The pup is in a rather nice room which appears to be his living/feeding area. An 'envelope' icon on the top right corner of the screen reveals when tapped the developer's other app and leads directly to the App Store. In an app for children I'd prefer iTunes links to be in a password-protected section that only parents can access.
Due to my fondness for English literature, I named my dog Byron and gave him a poke to wake him up. With my dog now awake I also acquired three new buttons in the top right section of my screen. The 'Zz' button put Byron back to sleep, the '?' showed me the screen swipes I could use to interact with Byron and then there was the map icon. When selected, this showed me a map of the house. Whether it's my advanced age or natural propensity for being bad at games, I don't know, but the map perplexed me at first. I was convinced I had to swipe the screen where Byron was in order to enter the other rooms in the house. Then, when looking at the menu of items that appears on the bottom of the screen (more on this below), I saw things like shampoo bottles that were greyed out. No amount of tapping on the bottles or swiping Byron's page would get me into the bathroom. Perhaps I had to earn more bathing items? I eventually worked out that you simply have to tap on each of the rooms on the MAP and you will find yourself there.
As you may be able to tell by this stage, there are no audio or written instructions, just visual prompts. In one way this is excellent because it means the app is accessible regardless of which language you speak and even for children who cannot yet read. If there were a parents' section to the app however, I would recommend adding some written instructions in case, like me, the app user can't seem to work out certain features.
The rooms in the house are:
â¢ The living area, marked on the map by a food dish.
â¢ A bathroom, where kids can wash their puppies.
â¢ A studio, where virtual owners can dress their dogs up in various outfits and take their pictures.
â¢ And lastly, in the basement, what every canine needs – a disco.
When Byron is awake, interacting with him earns stars which, as they accumulate, result in the arrival of gift-wrapped boxes. Byron opens the boxes and out pops food, treats, toys, bathing supplies, costume pieces – all of which are added to the menu at the bottom of the screen when tapped. Your children can interact with their puppy as follows:
â¢ Swipe up and he will sit on his haunches and beg.
â¢ Swipe down and he will lie down.
â¢ Swipe left or right and he will roll over.
â¢ Sometimes when you touch him he will stand sideways and pink floaty hearts will indicate he wants some affection. This consists of scratching him – he seems to prefer that his rump area gets the most attention. It looks a little weird for a kid's app anyway.
â¢ Give him some food and he'll eat it. He chews and shakes tennis balls and bones but give him a toy like a cat or a panda and he seems confused. My dog would have chewed it until it squeaked its last – Byron is much more timid it seems.
â¢ In the bathroom you shampoo, rinse and towel him dry in the bath.
â¢ In the studio, dress Byron in the costume pieces of your choice and photograph him. In a nice touch, this then becomes the picture in the living area.
â¢ In the disco, select a cd and then tap on the notes of your choice at exactly the right time. After you've timed it correctly often enough Byron then shows you some of his moves.
The app advertises itself in iTunes as pure entertainment but the dog itself and his environment are very realistically presented through 3D animations. My favorite part of the play interaction was when Byron would run up to the iPad screen and place his paws on it or lick it and it steamed up. Cute and funny!
I confess I would have preferred that the developer pick one end of the spectrum – fun and fantasy or realism – and been consistent with it. Dressing up and disco-dancing with a cartoon dog in an imaginative fantasy setting could be a fun game. As it is, the realistic look of DogWorld had me wishing it would give children an indication of what dog guardianship actually looks like. You will need to educate your children about this separately or risk them thinking that puppies are glorified Barbies.
This review was written by Deanne Shoyer whose dog was named after Anne Elliott from Jane Austen's Persuasion. Anne proved to be too formal a name however so this was shortened to Annie. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.