Pet Pals: Animal Doctor sets the player in the role of a newly arrived Vet to a short staffed animal clinic. From this moment on, the player is expected to cure every single sick animal that comes into the clinic, regardless of the pet or case. While this sounds like a solid enough idea, the game loses entertaining qualities with long load times, poor learning curve, dated graphics, and poor controls.
One thing that is hard to ignore is the terrible controls. This is probably due to the complete lack of a tutorial when the game starts up, and the absent-minded directions on what to do next. The only real challenge in the game is based around trying to figure out what tool to use next. A perfect case of when this is when the game asks for the animal to have blood taken, and the wrong needle is chosen; possibly because Pet Pals sees fit to have two of the same icons located in slightly different areas, both filling entirely different roles.
The only attempt at a tutorial the game ever gives the player comes in the form of a hint button that tells the player exactly what to do next and the method in which to do it. There are two problems with the hint button: the first is that it takes points that would be awarded for doing the next step without its help. Second, it still leaves selecting the next item up to trial an error (which is very helpful in the case of figuring out which syringe is for taking blood which is for injecting all forms of medication). It seems strange that the first several times the game is played through, it is almost required to play through the entire case by using the hint button, as none of the tools are labeled in any way.
This also proves rather maddening that the first couple of cases never seem to have enough time allotted to figure out what needs to be done without failing it several times. Each animal is allotted only a handful of minutes to be cured before they are sent back to the waiting room to have the entire process start again. This becomes rather annoying after the first several failures, simply because it always feels that the game just did not do a good enough job describing what to do.
Even after the controls of the game are “mastered”, various times throughout the game they still seem to act up. When pulling down the EKG monitor to check an animal’s vitals, the controls will still randomly miss for no real reason. This problem is littered through game, as more and more tools are only halfway responsive. The problem with the controls seems to be that once they are figured out, the entire challenge of the game is instantly gone and the game becomes overly easy.
Even without the lackluster challenge or terrible controls, Pet Pals still doesn’t look that impressive. The animations that the people in the game have are bad while the animals rarely move at all. The cut scenes, one of the few times the game displays movement, are normally grainy and uninteresting. While they do manage to get the entire point across of what is going on with the animal, before and after the treatment, they do little else.
The dialog is pretty much just as bad as the graphics, as almost every single case starts with one of the lab techs making pretty terrible jokes about either the owner or something random having to do with the pet. One shining moment in sound design in the game is that most of the animals in the game tended to sound like the animal that they were supposed to be. Although they didn’t make a vast amount of sound it was still entertaining to hear.
Pet Pals: Animal Doctor might have started out as a good idea for children that are interested in animal medicine, but along the way, it ended up being a budget disappointment. The problem is that Animal Doctor ends up feeling more like a project rushed out the door, than one that was allowed to fully develop. Even though the game does try to do some new things with animals it still has a long way to go before it is going to be on anyone’s must buy list.