Hands on with My Dog

Put a pooch in your pocket

Hands on with My Dog
| My Dog

Given our urban lifestyles, it's no surprise that dogs are more a fashion accessory than working animal or family friend these days. You just need them to look good, rather than scare burglars, chase rabbits or point when you're hunting grouse.

So combine a dog with a mobile phone and you end up with what could be this summer's hot look.

At least that's what I-Play is hoping for as it gets ready to let My Dog, a Nintendogs-esque, Tamigotchi-inspired game/time-waster, out of the pound this July.

Anyone who's played or even seen those spiritual forebears will know what to expect; you adopt a dog and then look after it, playing games, feeding, watering, walking and generally making sure it's a happy puppy.

The level of detail that's being added to the game is encouraging. We got our paws on an early build and, while it's nowhere near the sophistication of Nintendogs on the Nintendo DS, it's a far cry from the sappy simplicity of the Tamigotchis of this world. Carving out a niche for itself between the two, My Dog offers just enough interaction with your virtual pooch to keep things interesting (even if you are an eight-year-old girl), without Mr Pickles upping sticks and leaving home if he's ignored for more than an hour or two.

There are three environments in which you and your dog will be able to play: the kitchen, living room and garden. Each will provide its own unique entertainment and functionality. The kitchen, for example, is where you'll find food and water, the living room offers up a roaring log fire and telly, while the garden boasts a hose pipe – essential for keeping your pampered pooch from turning into a smelly mutt.

Wherever you happen to be, you can interact with your dog via a disembodied hand that you control with your phone's thumbstick. Move it over Mr Pickles and you can pat, stroke and tickle until your digits can take it no more, earning you the everlasting love of your canine pal.

There are also 'games' you can play with your dog. Balls, slippers and bones play their usual chewy and chase-worthy roles, but you can also take your dog for a walk around the neighbourhood where, I-Play is promising, it'll come across new experiences and surprises that will keep My Dog exciting.

There's also a dog show to attend where you can train your dog and enter competitions, and a shop for buying food and new playthings.

Your dog's reaction to this attention and other stimuli is represented by a thought-bubble, letting you know how happy, hungry, tired or grumpy he or she might be feeling. And don't think that Mr Pickles will stand for any ill-treatment – an in-game vet who is your advisor throughout My Dog will drop by and take away any animal that he thinks is being mistreated.

It's a neat way to get around the problems usually encountered by poorly looked-after dogs, and means that there's no comical dog with all its belongings wrapped up in a hanky, swinging on the end of a stick that's resting on its shoulder, wandering off into the sunset.

There certainly looks like being enough variation in My Dog to keep owners returning to their four-legged-friends time and time again. After all, a dog is for the length of your network contract, not just a bus ride…