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 game is the latest in the Paws & Claws Pet Vet series of games, targeted at school-aged kids. It focuses entirely on caring for animals, both in the wild and in habitats. Players treat wounded and unwell creatures, but without ever seeing any unpleasant symptoms. The experience is positive and educational. Keep in mind, though, that the reading is heavy and that there is a fair bit of intimidating medical terminology (examples: necrobacillus, clostridia, anthelmintics). Prospective players ought not to be afraid of learning new words.
What's it about?
Follow-up to the popular Paws & Claws: Pet Vet, PAWS & CLAWS: PET VET AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURES is a veterinarian simulation game in which players hop into a jeep and comb the Australian outback searching for ill and wounded animals to help. Some can be treated on the spot with bandages and injections while others need to be brought back to the reserve headquarters to be nursed back to health through careful pharmacological regimens. Players get paid for each animal they help, then use their funds to purchase new medical supplies and construct habitats for the animals they bring back. As time goes on, players build guest houses, welcome visitors to the reserve, and take them on safaris.
Is it any good?
As educational entertainment goes, Paws & Claws: Pet Vet Australian Adventures is a mixed bag. It has excellent 3-D models and animations for both its human and animal characters, but smallish, bland looking environments. The information distilled about animals, their habitats, and the medical treatments we dispense is succinct and interesting, but full of typographical errors and grammatical mistakes. And while the game's missions -- which focus primarily on driving about looking for animals in need and then carefully examining and treating them once found -- are fun and interesting to start, they eventually begin to feel rather repetitive.
Still, it ought to prove both educational and exciting for kids entertaining the prospect of going into veterinary medicine. They will learn a thing or two about how to diagnose afflictions such as worms, constipation, and salmonella. And there is an undeniable satisfaction in caring for one of the game's animals back at reserve headquarters and watching it get better, or finding a lost koala and returning it to its mother. It's just too bad that the game wasn't a smidgeon deeper. More environments, a greater diversity of animals, and a larger number of ailments to diagnose would have gone a long way towards making the game feel less monotonous.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about veterinarians. Is this a career you think you might like? People who devote their lives to the care of animals often have extremely rewarding careers, but they also have to deal with the sorrow that comes with handling animals that they are unable to help, including some that must be euthanized. How do you think you would deal with this challenge? The game simplifies the job of a veterinarian in that all of the animals players care for are co-operative and receptive to treatments. Would the game have been better had it included some animals with illnesses that couldn't be treated? Or if the player's performance in selecting and administering treatments affected the animals' chances of recovery?
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