It's a little strange dogs are considered man's best friend when you look at how they behave. Sure, they're loyal and have none of the sneering condescension that feline pets are famed for, but what about all that furniture chewing and carpet soiling? Not exactly the sort of thing you expect from a best mate.
So in order to live in harmony with a dog, it's important to have it suitably trained. You'd expect Mickey Mouse would be a bit of a soft touch with keeping Pluto in line but, as it turns out, the Munchkin-voiced mouse is a bit of a hard taskmaster when it comes to canine control in Disney Dogs.
The game is essentially a pet sim, though not of the Tamagotchi mould – starvation, neglect and death are not common themes in Disney titles. Instead, the focus is on mini-games.
There are four dogs in the game. Pluto and Fifi can be taken under your wing from the off, but you'll need to assert your dog rearing skills to have to opportunity to look after Butch or Dinah.
After you've chosen which mutt to look after, you take control via a floating hand (of the white-gloved, four-fingered Disney variety) which you use to direct your new best friend around the gameworld.
You begin in the house of your master, which, if you choose Pluto, is Mickey Mouse's pad. This is where you can feed, groom and command your dog to sleep, and you'll find a gauge at the top of the screen for each (as well as one for petting, which can be activated anywhere in the gameworld) to indicate what your animal wants.
When choosing a certain action, you need to make your way to where that action takes place, where you'll then be prompted to start a mini-game. These are all typically simple affairs. For example, in the grooming mini-game you need to press the '2' and '8' or '4' and '6' keys in quick succession in order to move a scrubbing brush either horizontally or vertically across your dog, until the grooming gauge is filled.
Once all of your animal's core attributes are full – a process that takes about five minutes – you can venture out into the park to engage in a selection of other mini-games involving the other dogs in the game. These range from obstacle courses, where you need to prompt your pet to either jump or duck with the '2' and '8' keys, to winning a tug of war with another dog by repeatedly hitting the '5' key.
Once you win enough mini-games you can earn trophies, play as other characters and, of course, unlock more mini-games. It's all very polished stuff, with great presentation and detailed ambrosial visuals that are packed with that winsome Disney charm.
The problem is the game suffers from being overly simplistic and repetitive. Many of the mini-games feel similar and the prompts to trudge back and forth to various parts of the gameworld only to be faced with an event you already played a few minutes previously gets tiresome very quickly.
For a younger audience, however, this might not be such an issue. Certainly, if you're looking for something to keep little Johnny or Jane quiet for five minutes, then you could do a lot worse. And, of course, although Disney Dogs may not be much of a long-term companion, it doesn't leave little Fido puddles around the house for you to clean up.