A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a game based on the movie of the same name, and that it follows the movie's story. There's nothing to be concerned about in this E-rated game other than brief discussions in the movie clips about dogs' bodily functions. Each level takes no longer than an hour to play though (usually less). There's not much replayability here, however, and games can only be saved at the end of each level.
What's it about?
HOTEL FOR DOGS, the game, is based on Hotel for Dogs, the movie, which is based on Hotel for Dogs, the book by Lois Duncan. Both the movie and the book are cute, touching charmers and the game follows their plot: animal-loving orphan kids scour the city from street to dog pound for stray canines. Then, they set the dogs up in a spacious but abandoned hotel.
With some movie scenes thrown in at the beginning of each level, the game is a hybrid of the simulation that you find in The Sims Pets along with casual seek-and-find games and gadget-building games. Much of the first level is a tutorial hosted by the movie's main child characters. You're shown how to feed and care for your dogs, find gadget parts in the hotel, and build gadgets. You'll search the hotel's many rooms and when you come to the right one, a list of hidden gadget parts will be displayed on the screen's left. then you hunt and click to find the listed parts. The gadgets are fun, Rube Goldberg-like contraptions such as dog showers or feeders. Making them requires clicking on a part using the 'A' button, putting it in the proper position via the D-pad, and then duct taping, hammering or screwing down the part – all done via the Wii remote.
Is it any good?
While the gameplay starts out easily, it does become more difficult as you progress. You'll occasionally leave the hotel to lure new strays into the fold. The hotel is shown as if half of it were cut away and only the rooms are shown. When you click to go inside, there's nothing really to explore and precious few surprises – just the hunting for items you need to make your gadgets. It's fun; but it still needs more ingenuity to make the experience come alive.
One of the things you don't feel in the game is an abiding affection for the dogs. The game makers spent so much time on designing the gameplay that they left much of the love you're supposed to have for the dogs to the cut scenes you watch (and which can be replayed all together once the game is finished). But even without a love connection to the canines, there are some interesting twists on gameplay in Hotel for Dogs that come to you via a successful combining of game genres.
Talk to your kids about ...
Parents can talk about which adaptation is superior – the movie, the book, or the game. Which of the gameplay experiences to you enjoy most, the simulation, the hunting for parts, or the making of gadgets? If you had a hotel for dogs, who in your family would you hire to run it? What other hotel jobs would people in your family be good at?
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