reviews\ Oct 19, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Animal Paradise - NDS - Review

We’ve all witnessed the overwhelming sensation of big-headed animal photos that swept across the country not long ago. These disgustingly adorable depictions of already cute furry pets even sparked a new line of stuffed animal, as well as a short stint of McDonalds Happy Meal toys. But whether you loved those oversized faces, or hated them with a passion, the art of Hana Deka was an undoubtedly successful adventure into the world of strange, pointless, and irresistible.

Months, if not years after Hana Deka’s success on American shores, Empire Interactive has decided to bring the first “Big Nose” video game to the U.S., with hopes that all those little children and giddy girls will remember their obsession and rekindle that fire that once burned bright for Hana Deka animals. Animal Paradise gives Nintendo DS players a chance to search for their own cute animals, befriend them, and snap photos of their very own.

The entire concept behind Animal Paradise revolves around finding animals, playing with them through a series of mini-games, and eventually befriending them. Once you and said animal are trustworthy enough, it’ll let you get photos for your collection. Now, I use the word “get” for a reason. You don’t actually snap any photos at all. The game will simply unlock a new still-frame photo of the animal you just played with, which is viewable by you. The player does not get to dictate how the photo is taken, at what angle it is taken, or the pose the animal is presenting when photographed. In terms of gameplay, this lacking feature is a huge letdown.

In order to gain the animals’ trust, you must progress through a series of mini-games, ranging from feeding the critter to bathing it. The actual games themselves are tried and true in terms of gameplay mechanics, but they also bring nothing fresh to the mini-game genre. Each game you progress through also lacks any form of status bar to indicate exactly how far into the mini-game you are. After playing through the same scenario for each animal you encounter, this process expectedly begins to get tedious.

Unfortunately, there is very little reward for all your hard work with each of the 18 animals available within Animal Paradise. The player strives to gain the creature’s trust, and once trust is reached, the player receives a photograph to stare at. Occasionally, a new mini-game will also be unlocked, but the variations between each of these are hardly worth mentioning.

Controls are simple, as expected in a game with such little depth or involvement. While this is a plus for younger children who will be easily drawn to the game, there is no challenge at all for any gamer looking for more than a casual experience. Even within the photo album, the player cannot interact at all with the actual photos. The only interaction with the animals occurs during your strained efforts to make them like you.

Animal Paradise reads much differently from the outside looking in. Once you crack the case open and begin to play, you will quickly realize that the emphasis on photography is actually quite lacking, and the attention placed on animal interaction swiftly gets less than enjoyable as you progress from creature to creature. If you enjoy cute and cuddly, then you could very well still get enjoyment out of the game. Animal Paradise possessed mounds of potential, but the piles left behind are less than ideal.

Review Scoring Details for Animal Paradise

Gameplay: 4.0
The gameplay presented by Animal Paradise is linear and mundane after only a few plays. Each of the mini-games (which actually make up most of your playtime) is similar, and a lack of interaction with the photographs was disappointing.  

Graphics: 6.0
The visual presentation of Animal Paradise is probably the game’s best feature. While the animals are not overly impressive, they represent their individual species quite well. The Hana Deka style of art used for photographs seems gimmicky without any form of interaction.

Sound: 5.0
All of the expected sounds and noises of animals are included, and make their audio appearances in accordance with the game. Nothing ever truly stands out of the audio crowd though.

Difficulty: Easy
Animal Paradise is not meant to present a challenge, and succeeds very easily in this right. The only difficult exception is actually forcing you to complete each mini-game.  

Concept: 5.0
The concept of using cute “big nose” photography within a virtual world full of animals is compelling and innovative. Unfortunately, Animal Paradise only makes the player believe this gameplay mechanic will exist.

Overall: 5.0
While Animal Paradise’s biggest downfall is a lacking camera mechanic of any kind, other minor issues definitely plagued the game as well. The mini-games were repetitive and melancholy more than they were enjoyable. The rewards for befriending successfully befriending animals were hardly able to be considered rewards at all. The concept was there, but the execution and misleading package really forced Animal Paradise down the wrong path.


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