A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that any child who longs for a virtual pet game, but is not old enough to handle a title like Nintendogs or one of the Petz series, can find exactly what they're looking for in this preschool-friendly animal sim. The game is utterly wholesome, requires no reading, and has a beloved character to guide kids through every step of the pet-care and competition process.
What's it about?
In the bluntly titled, DORA PUPPY, kids help Nick Jr cartoon star, Dora the Explorer, take care of her puppy, Perrito, and help train him for doggie competitions. Care involves washing and brushing, providing food and water, letting the dog outside to do its business, cleaning up pawprints, and playing several different games with the puppy. Kids earn tokens for each task, which they can use to buy new toys or clothes for Perrito, or to enter him into the Big Puppy Competition. The competition involves helping Perrito run an obstacle course and having him strike poses. All the actions are performed by either tracing certain shapes with the stylus or calling out commands into the DS's microphone.
Is it any good?
Virtual pet games can be very appealing to young kids, but many of them require a ton of reading and the memorization of long lists of rules and commands. Not so Dora Puppy, which was designed very astutely with preschool-age players in mind (It's unclear why the ESRB did not give the game an EC, Early Childhood, rating). If your kid can trace shapes and make noises, they can play it. After some initial tutorials, there's a element of freedom -- kids can mostly choose whichever activity they want, whenever they want to -- but Dora is always along for the ride, reminding the player what to do each time. Her constant presence -- and constant reiteration of controls -- is the kind of thing that would drive older kids crazy, but the intended audience will find it helpful and reassuring. Preschooler should love to nuzzle up to Dora Puppy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about caring for real-world pets. How is it different from a virtual pet? What do we need to do for a real pet that we don't need to do in the game for Dora's puppy?
In the game, you can buy toys and clothes for the puppy with the tokens you earn during play. Ask kids if they like to spend their tokens as soon as they earn them, or do they like to save up and by an item with a higher price tag?
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