On the face of it, Dogz is one of the less exciting upcoming N-Gage games, since we already know it well from the Java version. However, don't muzzle it to the back of your consciousness just yet because a hands-on playtest proves the game certainly shouldn't be written off on those grounds.
The basic idea is the same: acquire a virtual puppy, and keep it happy through a mixture of nourishment, petting, washing and playing. Before going any further, we should mention this preview is based on a 15-minute session starting from scratch, so we've only scratched the surface of the game's features.
What we can say is that the 3D visuals are very nice, whether you're getting close-up with your loveable pooch, or rotating your house to get a different view. It's pretty smooth, too, even in the non-final version we played.
One thing the 3D does do is make the comparisons with Nintendogs even more overt – especially when your dog scampers up to the virtual camera and puts his paws up on the screen. Bless.
Three breeds were available at the start: a Labrador, a Shiba Inu, and a Jack Russell. The introductory section of the game takes the expected format of teaching you the various features, so you feed and water your dog, throw a frisbee for him in the garden, take him to the beach to meet another pup, and then bring him home for a good scrub.
The controls are pretty good – Nintendogs owners will scoff, but it's one area where the comparison is a bit unfair, since Dogz can't live up to the stylus 'n' touchscreen UI of Nintendo's DS title – and if the Java version is anything to go by, more locations and activities will open up as you progress.
Our main question when it comes to a final review will be how much extra gameplay there is in the N-Gage version, or whether it'll just be the same as the Java version, just better looking. In fact, that's our question for any Java game which gets upscaled to N-Gage, as anyone who's read our review of World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge will appreciate.
Still, let's not jump to conclusions before playing the final version of Dogz, eh? Click 'Track It!' for an alert when we reach our verdict.