HOTEL FOR DOGS / 505 Games / Nintendo DS
Hotel For Dogs is based on some low-budget Nickelodeon movie made in the late 00s, in which the premise was that a bunch of stray dogs are living in an abandoned hotel, and a bunch of kids who appear to have the engineering acumen of Data from the Goonies decide to take care of them by rigging up automated gadgets to provide the dogs with Better Living Through Science.

So, it's fair to assume this was aimed almost entirely at young kids, and to come in not expecting much in the way of challenge or complexity. I still think even the tots are going to find this one too boring and non-interactive, however. It's basically a combination of the "hidden object" genre and Minecraft-esque crafting, with the one potentially interesting bit being that you have to put the dog contraptions (like automatic feeding and bathing machines) together yourself by assembling 3D parts. Since everything is totally on rails, however, don't expect your youngsters to derive any sort of engineering education from this one.

The game is divided into chapters in which you're given a checklist of objectives to complete. The main objective is building the various gadgets, which is a two-part process. The first part is the "hidden room" aspect, which requires you to arbitrarily click through hotel rooms looking for the ones that contain parts on your list (indicated by the list appearing when you enter and the music changing), then click on the various dark lumps of poorly-defined junk until you've vacuumed up everything you need in that room. When the list is filled out, the second part is going to the Workshop room to put the device together. This is where the game could have stood out, but instead they went the standard cheap licensing path of least resistance. You simply cycle through the available parts until the game tells you you have the one it wants you to place next, then rotate and drag it around until it snaps into position. Kids will be able to brute-force this completely without thought, learning nothing of real use from it (not that the squinty graphics would adequately allow them to see how things fit together anyway).

The only other major mode of gameplay is an occasional mini-game out in an alley where you have to toss bones to entice a stray dog to come to you. This appears to be hopelessly broken, as no matter how close you get a bone to a dog, they seem to ignore it unless it's farther down the alley than they presently are. In the end it doesn't matter at all, however, and you might as well just huck a bone to the far end of the alley and wait for the dog to go get it. All that happens is the dogcatcher scoops them up and you have to spend five seconds going to retrieve them from the pound, with no apparent negative consequences whatsoever.

With no possible failure states, overly verbose forced narration of every step (which appeared to just be an excuse to get the movie actors wedged in as much as possible), and being guided directly to everything, the game is barely even interactive. What interactive bits there are are more of a temporary annoyance than anything else, and kids playing it will quickly get the impression that there's nothing to this but arbitrarily clicking around until the game moves forward. Even youngsters are going to think this low-effort shovelware is a dog log.
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