| Dogz

Man's best friend? Since dogs have moved on from being working animals – guard dogs, hunting dogs, variety show guests – they've become a bit soft, we think. Instead of a noble companion, you're now more likely to see a dog that's small enough to fit in a diamante handbag and more closely resembles a guinea pig with legs than Lassie.

It's a trend taken to the extreme in Gameloft's Dogz, where you can literally fit your pup in your pocket. A game that's not really a game (more a lifestyle simulator), Dogz sleeps in a bed that's in the same kennel as My Dog and Nintendogs, though the latter title, on the Nintendo DS, is far more complex.

In Dogz you're given the chance to adopt a puppy, either a Jack Russel or Labrador (though we were restricted to picking the Lab in our Samsung D600 version). You then take him or her to your in-game home, a trendily-furnished pad with a large garden. Once there it's up to you to love and care for your new pooch, keeping it happy and healthy.

You've probably heard of or played these sorts of games and, generally speaking, they usually fall into a routine. You feed your four-legged friend, play a few basic games with it, clean up its poop and give it a wash. Then, at seemingly random times, it'll fall asleep.

It's a leash that Dogz does its best to escape from, however, and while it does adhere to the pet-simulator basics, it builds on them to provide a playing experience that's unusually involving.

This is thanks to the sheer amount of stuff that there is to do. Shunning the My Dog route that finds you earning money by entering shows in order to buy food, you're instead given free rein to do what you want.

You can take your dog for a walk around the neighbourhood, where you'll actually be able to lead him or her on a leash, instead of choosing your route on a map, as in My Dog. You can go to the beach to play, to the leisure centre to go swimming or enter the dog Olympics, for example. Or you can just walk around or play chase.

In short, you can do whatever you want, and as Dogz is pretty open-ended (you simply need to keep your mutt healthy), it's a good job, too. You can access new toys and new parts of the game as you progress and you never feel as though you're running out of things to do.

As for your furry chum, well Fido might not look like much but he does learn. You can teach him tricks, house train him, even exercise him to do better at the doggy Olympics mentioned above.

It's never wholly clear how this all works beyond clicking on the prompts that you're initially given by the in-game helper, an unusually sultry vet. But you can drop by her surgery any time for an in-depth report on Spot's state of mind, including his intelligence, affection, fitness and happiness.

It makes for a very convincing experience. In fact, the only part of the game that's not up to kennel-club standards is the visuals. While the backgrounds are brilliantly detailed, your pooch is little more than a brown or black blob with legs. Even the close-up cut-scenes when playing are disappointing.

In fact, it's hard to really form a close relationship with your digital doggy because it's so featureless. Unless it leaps up onto the screen to be petted (which is, admittedly, very cute), it's hard to feel as though you're really building a bond.

If you could combine My Dog's looks with Dogz immense amount of interaction you'd have the best of breed. As it is, you're left with a very talented mongrel.


Great fun but looking a little ruff, Dogz builds on the virtual pet genre but needs grooming