Developer: Animal Uprising
Publisher: Secret Mode
Genre(s): Casual, Pet Simulation, Sandbox
Platform: PlayStation 4 (also available on PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 23/05/2023
A code was provided for review purposes.
Ready, Set, Woof!
Wobbledogs is a 3D pet simulation game where you play with, feed and breed an ever-growing pack of mutating dogs. This is a casual, hands-off game without a set narrative or set of instructions for you to follow. You can look after your dogs as actively or as passively as you like, and can dedicate playtime to the aspects of the game that you enjoy most, whether that be playing with your dogs, designing the perfect living spaces for them or breeding them together.
If you do wish for some sense of direction, however, fret not. There is an engaging list of milestones for you to work towards in the menu if you’d like to. The completion of each of these grants you different rewards. Such rewards include new foods, new rooms for dogs to inhabit, and new machines to use with them.
When playing Wobbledogs for the first time, you’ll complete a short tutorial that shows you the basics of the game. You’ll first learn how to interact with your dogs, including how to manually feed them and play with them. Then, you’ll learn how to navigate and decorate their living spaces, as well as how to breed them together using the breeding simulator.
Briefly, you’ll also learn about the unique traits and personalities that dogs can have, discover the three important care meters (hunger, sleep, fun) that you must maintain for each dog, as well as get a glimpse at some of the weird, wonderful and worrying foods they can eat. Each food item contains different types of ‘flora’ that impact dogs’ physical features and appearances, and can be used to engineer specific changes in them as they pupate and enter a new stage of their lives.
Wibbly Wobbly Wobbledogs
Before welcoming the first dogs into your pack, you’ll need to decorate their new home. Available decorations include food dispensers, egg incubators (in this universe, dogs are hatched from, and lay, eggs) and dog toys. Be warned, however; these dogs aren’t like real dogs! They can eat many foods that real dogs shouldn’t, play with all kinds of toys, and are impacted by physics to the extremes. If, when launching Wobbledogs, you find yourself wondering why ‘wobble’ is in the title – you won’t be wondering for long!
As you continue to breed your dogs and develop their physical traits, you’ll find yourself with dogs of all shapes and sizes. This is thanks to the various flora at work in their guts, making them variably unstable and mutated. For instance, your dogs might end up with short bodies, multiple tails, differently-shaped heads, or extremely long legs.
Perhaps the most varied mutation in the Console Edition of Wobbledogs, however, is the number of legs a dog can have. You might breed a “worm” dog without any legs or a “spider” dog with eight (or more) legs. As stated prior, you can purposefully breed for specific physical traits if you’d like to. This is achieved by feeding dogs particular foods which contain flora that affect that trait.
Alternatively, you can prompt random mutations by having your dogs eat rather… questionable foods, such as poop, vomit, and cocoons. Breeding, therefore, makes for an endless loop of dog hatching, growth, and mutation through pupation. Though dogs can, by default, die, their ghosts may visit you from time to time if their headstone is used as a decoration, and the option for random ghost spawns is enabled in the settings.
Enjoyable Fur-Filled Fun
Wobbledogs‘ gameplay loop is highly enjoyable, keeping you engaged no matter whether you’re actively playing or passively watching. I sat for hours actively feeding, playing with, and cross-breeding my dogs. Equally, I spent lots of time watching them engage with each other while working or doing housework. The variety of toys, decorations, and wall / floor designs for the rooms is very satisfying and enables you to create lots of different themed rooms for your dogs to live in.
The overall aesthetic of the dogs is also very cute; while blocky-looking and simple, they still have ample personality. Everything in the game is colourful, stylised and inviting to look at, making it attractive to players of all ages. Though not always prominent, the sound design also deserves a mention; the dog barks, grunts and other sound effects, in particular, give them an element of realism that they lack in every other sense.
I particularly liked that many of the gameplay elements and controls in Wobbledogs are customisable. In the in-game settings, you can toggle dog deaths, as well as choose how long dogs’ lifespans should be. As mentioned, you can also decide whether ghost dogs can spawn randomly or restrict them to manual summons from tombstones.
This means that you can reserve your available dog slots (as you can only have four dogs in each room) for living dogs if you’d like to, or else freely allow ghost dogs to come and go as well. There are also various control settings available for those who need them, such as the ability to invert the X and Y axes. Standard customisation options for graphics and audio are also present in the settings as well.
Almost Completely Paw-sitive
My playthrough of Wobbledogs on PlayStation 4 was largely issue-free, but I do have a small number of criticisms. The first of these is the control scheme for camera movement and item selection. The process of moving the camera and selecting items is clunky and difficult, involving using the triggers to change the depth of zoom and the joysticks to move and look around.
It is tricky to be precise when making selections, rendering prompt responses to dogs’ actions nearly impossible. Decorating rooms, creating tunnels between them and moving items around is also difficult under this control scheme, as it operates around a fixed point in the centre of the screen and does not move flexibly with items in hand. A cursor-based system, as used in the PC version, would work far better – even if slower.
I did encounter a few small bugs, such as items getting stuck and dogs stretching endlessly. However, a reboot of the game usually fixed these. The only bug not resolved by a reboot is a trivial visual issue in the menu, where despite completing all milestones, the menu states only 98% completion (which, as a completionist, is a minor annoyance).
Finally, while not necessarily concerning, the handling of certain gameplay elements is surprising. For example, the breeding animation – where two dogs are bashed together by a tongue-lolling, panting dog statue – is a rather bizarre and crude representation of reproduction in mammals. Dog deaths, too, are strange; I never expected my dogs to explode into a variety of body chunks upon death, nor did I imagine that my other dogs would cannibalistically chow down on them afterwards! While not off-putting for me, younger players may be left with questions, so parents beware.
Barking Up The Right Tree
To conclude, I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing Wobbledogs. Despite its fiddly and awkward control scheme, it has a satisfying gameplay loop that keeps you coming back for more and has lots to offer in terms of progression and design. I had a lot of fun designing and decorating different rooms for my dogs to inhabit and enjoyed witnessing the mutating effects of each flora on my dogs’ bodies.
The fact that dogs are self-sufficient as well as responsive to player input is very beneficial. This gives greater gameplay flexibility and playability and means that you can freely choose to either actively play or else multi-task, monitoring your dogs while also doing other things.
There is no defined end to the gameplay, and you can hatch and breed as many dogs as you like. Although the wait for processes like dog growth or breeding to complete feels long sometimes, it’s also relaxing and pressure-free. Plus, if you’re a completionist like myself, you can extend your experience further by hunting down the 62 available achievements.
If you’re a fan of casual games or animal simulation games, you’ll more than likely enjoy Wobbledogs. In the future, I hope to see the other foods, flora, mutations and features from the PC version come to the console edition to give the game additional content for players to enjoy. This will then give the game even greater playability.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.