Fuzzy Professor Head’s Puppysaurus [$3.99] isn’t the Pokemon clone that we expected it would be when our all-seeing eye initially caught it earlier this summer. Inarguably, it cribs a lot from Game Freak’s overly formulaic and mega popular franchise, but it also packs a few important twists -- namely within the barrier of entry -- that gives it some measure of distance. Because of the anticipation surrounding it we thought it would be wise to go ahead and give you a run-down and, sadly, tell you why it isn't for you.
The short version is that it's Baby’s First Pokemon, a very rudimentary take on the series with spectacularly base mechanics and systems seemingly designed for kids. The long version is that it takes just about everything important to Pokemon -- the world navigation, the battle system, the training, and the catching of beasts -- and simplifies it to a point where it’s hard to stomach as a grown-butt dude, but might end up being perfect for little ones looking for a light sort of RPG immersion.
I think there’s a slight chance I could be reading Puppysaurus completely wrong, and it could somehow be a game targeted for adults who dig Game Freak's titles. My reservations, though, stem from its overly cutesy art direction and visuals, its overly produced introduction of mechanics and systems, its desire to get parents involved in the play, and its total lack of aggression.
This is a game where you “play” with other beasts in order to catch them, stand on little white sparks to engage in fights, and “bop” and “bark” your way through battle, even though the character lead, Puppysaurus, could obviously rip the head off and spit down the neck of anything rotund and furry that stands in its way. It’s a very measured, methodical experience with obvious area level caps, super simplistic navigation, and a fairly linear progression.
Where it departs is within the dialogue, and I guess to some extent, how far down the collection rabbit hole you want to go. NPCs are outrageous in that knowing Saturday morning cartoon nod-at-the-parents sort of way, and it does, I’d imagine, take some level of skill to really get a handle on catching some monsters. New monsters, according to the app's description, will be added every day, too, which is something you don't see from Pokemon. Also, you can draw your own monsters (called "Twees") with an out-of-app drawing program.
Upon playing, you'll immediately get the feel that this isn’t a game meant for you. It’s a game targeted at youngsters, and even though Pokemon appeals to millions of kids around the world in addition to adults, the series still packs a punch for its older crowd -- its systems, mechanics, and world have a satisfying level of depth and complexity, whereas Puppysaurus doesn’t appear to.
Is it uncomfortably close to its inspiration? Yes. Could you argue that this is a rip-off or a clone? Probably. But it’s obviously not a game that everyone can enjoy, which, again, gives it a measure of distance from the Pokemon franchise, for better or worse. We were really revved for this back in May, but we can't really get behind this just now. If you have kids, however, this might just do the trick.
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