Littlest Pet Shop: Friends
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this game is tied to Hasbro’s Littlest Pet Shop line of toys as well as the Littlest Pet Shop online community. There are ads inside the box and in the game’s “extras” section that promote toys and other EA games geared for girls, plus codes redeemable at Hasbro’s online community for kids. Commercial elements aside, the game is wholesome fun for children. It has a strong theme of friendship and features plenty of cute little pets that want nothing more than to plan parties, dress up, and play with one another. Note that while there are multiple versions of the DS game (dubbed Beach, Country, and City), they all have the same story and activities. The only significant difference is that each offers half a dozen exclusive pets.
What's it about?
The latest game based on Hasbro’s popular line of toy pets, LITTLEST PET SHOP: FRIENDS puts players in control of more than a dozen cute little creatures who are chums and play with one another in a small virtual world filled with shops, houses, carnival games, and other activities. Players switch between pets with different abilities (dogs can dig, birds can fly) as they explore the world and complete simple objectives, such as baking food for a party or finding a lost guest list. A sampling of the simple mini-games included: skee-ball, cake decorating, ice cream scoop stacking, and filling customer orders at a paint store.
Note that the DS version is nearly identical to the Wii, save that it presents a top-down view as opposed to a 3-D world. It has the same story and activities, with just a few differences in control (thanks to the DS’ touch screen) plus the ability for two players to join up in local wireless play. Also be aware that the only difference between the three DS versions -- titled Littlest Pet Shop: Friends City, Littlest Pet Shop: Friends Beach, and Littlest Pet Shop: Friends Country -- is that each has about half a dozen exclusive pets.
Is it any good?
Aside from the game's clear marketing ploy designed to heighten awareness among children of Hasbro’s Littlest Pet Shop toys, this isn’t a bad game. Its strong message of friendship and complete lack of any sort of violence will be welcomed by parents, and its basic narrative should appeal to children. So, for that matter, should most of the games. Mixing paint colors, collecting ingredients for recipes, buying pet clothes and accessories with kibble coins earned while playing other games -- these are activities that involve creativity and freedom while providing objectives and rewards kids can wrap their heads around. They do become a bit repetitive after a while, and the game would have benefitted from voice work to help kids who are still learning to read, but these aren’t deal-breakers.
One final note: We recommend going with one of the DS versions (Littlest Pet Shop: Friends City, Littlest Pet Shop: Friends Beach, or Littlest Pet Shop: Friends Country) rather than the Littlest Pet Shop: Friends Wii edition, partly because they’re $10 cheaper, but also because the touch screen controls are a bit more intuitive and precise than the infrared and motion-sensitive interface provided for the Wii game.
Online interaction: Not an issue.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about friendship. What does it mean to be a friend? Is it simply a matter of having someone to do fun things with, or is there more to it than that? The pets in this game are indefatigably chipper and never show frustration with one another. Do you think that’s possible in a real friendship? What have your friendships been like?
Families can also discuss the notion of commercialism. Do you understand that one of the primary reasons games like this exist is to promote the toys upon which they are based? Do you think that games like these can offer an engaging experience for kids who don’t own the toys with which they are associated?