This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.
Another week, another review of a freemium Gameloft game based on a super-popular children's licence. Where last week my time was filled with sparkly ponies, this week I've been given lots of different types of animals to care for, all the while building seriously lovely houses for them to live in.
Over the course of the last seven days I've been petting, cleaning, nurturing, and otherwise looking after the cutesy inhabitants of the Littlest Pet Shop, based on the line of toys from Hasbro.
The game certainly has the look of the products and associated cartoons, but does this building-focused pet care title offer anything beyond aesthetic fidelity? Read on to find out.
Presenting the town from a side-on perspective, Littlest Pet Shop is predictably colourful, with cartoonish 2D buildings adorning a sun-baked street. However, the animals themselves are 3D. And good 3D at that.
Each of the pets is a caricature of its real-world counterpart, with over-emphasised body features and doey eyes. Whether playing with them in a mini-game or seeing them stroll about your street - the background for which can be changed from a beach to a desert, city, and so on in the Shop - they look the part and add a lot of life to the flat environment.
A very clever artistic flourish is that the buildings all seem to be based on playsets. There's a Pet Daycare that looks ripped straight out of a toy catalogue, replete with a slide and a chunky plastic-looking ambulance waiting outside.
From what little I've played, I'm impressed. It's too early to tell if it's going to go against the conventional mechanics of a freemium builder, but it at least it appears to be faithful to the toys.
One criticism I've already formulated, though, is that the finite currency is called 'Bling'. "Would you like to purchase some more Bling?" No. No, Littlest Pet Shop. I never want to do that. Because I'm not in N-Dubz.
Day 3: Hitting the wall
After a few more days, I'm even more impressed with how Littlest Pet Shop has turned out, especially in terms of its approach to stuffing its gameplay full of activities.
That's not to say that there are a lot of mini-games on offer. The opposite, in fact. You're given just a handful of games with which to level-up your individual pets, including a ball-bouncing game, a scrubbing game, and a feeding game. There's no depth to any of them, but you can get through them blisteringly quickly.
You plonk down houses so that you can fill them with pets. The pets then play with one another, earning you Kibble in the process. Kibble is the game's infinite currency, and while it's a silly name it has the advantage of not being 'Bling'.
Buildings also accumulate Kibble over time, and additional accessories (such as a merry-go-round) can be added to them too, again earning you more cash. Sorry: Kibble.
But, unfortunately, I've already hit my first roadblock: the game's challenges. They're your typical "buy the X" and "do activity X three times" variety, but many of them focus on items that can only be purchased, or tasks that can only be accessed with Bling.
How do you get this Bling? Levelling up gives you some, paying real-life money works too, but one of the main in-game ways of getting your hands on it is by watching trailers for other freemium games. You get a measly one Bling for each 30-second video, and many of the challenges will cost you ten or more to complete.
Day 7: It's a Bling thing
It seems that Bling might just be my biggest sticking point of the entire game. I was kind of joking around after the first day. I thought I may have been missing something after the third. But after the seventh the game has just become a bit too stingy.
It totally flies in the face of the kineticism of the main game, too. You're always able to grind some Kibble from passers-by, and your pets need care constantly, but the time you'll need to spend watching adverts or grinding out levels to get Bling to finish some challenges ensures that you hit pretty hard walls pretty early.
If you're not too fussed about completing these, then unlocking more types of the animals you already have is quick and easy. You simply play with them and eventually a new colour version of the puppy or whatever you already have comes to stay.
As you keep playing there are more playsets to get hold of, each of which is really just cosmetic in its effect on the game. You also gain more Kibble for a higher-ranked building, but - to reiterate - Kibble isn't the thing you'll find yourself lacking.
There's constantly stuff to do, but you just never feel like you're moving the game forward. Which is a real shame, as it saps your enthusiasm to see more of what the game has to offer.
By the end of the seven days I spent with Littlest Pet Shop, I felt like I was cheated by my experience. I felt like a cog in an ad-watching machine, only really required for my ability to be served ads, for which I received the scant reward of getting a few inches farther on the long road to new content.
The base gameplay of what's here is acceptable, but the lack of reward for being a pawn in Gameloft's marketing of other products isn't. Shame.There you have it: our impressions of the game after seven days of play. How are you finding the game though? Let us and the rest of the Pocket Gamer Community know by leaving a comment in the box below.