Don’t get me wrong – I love the idea of Diner Dash meets animals, and a game that could build upon what Zemnott did with Dr. Daisy Pet Vet. After all, who could resist pampering cute dogs and cats in a spa for pets, and from the same folks who brought us the breakthrough time management game series, no less? While the concept is promising, Doggie Dash doesn’t offer anything new to the genre. Nada. It’s virtually the exact same experience Diner Dash will give you from start to finish, but with dogs and cats instead of people. As a result, we liked – but not loved – PlayFirst’s latest casual game offering.
At the start of the game you’ll read a comic book-like storyline about a happy animal couple, Rocky the dog and Wendy the cat, who convince reluctant business partners Walter and Scarlett to open a spa designed to pamper pets.
Cat and dog owners will enter your spa and plop the pet down on the counter. You’ll figure out what kind of service they want by looking at a little icon near their head – such as bathing, grooming, accessorizing or playing – and bringing them to the appropriate station. If there is more than one request, you’ll see which station to bring them to first, second and third, and so on. If the animals get impatient the dogs will whimper and cats will frown and moan, and they could leave if you don’t keep them entertained, perhaps with a treat, rubdown on the massage table or telling jokes on the microphone (um, whatever). The challenge comes in when there’s a line-up of pets waiting to be seen because there isn’t any room at a station for one more.
You’ll have your partner (and other helpers) who will take the dog or cat to their respective owner when they’ve had the attention they came for, but every couple of levels your partner is away so you must perform this additional task, too.
The object of the game is to make your minimum cash quota per day to advance to the next stage. With this money you can purchase cosmetic upgrades for your spa (letting you customize it to your personal tastes) or more importantly, add new stations or upgrade them so they run faster. You can also upgrade your own speed and your partner’s speed.
Similar to other time management games you’ll get bonus points by chaining the same tasks together in a row. In Doggie Dash this is handled by swapping one animal for another at a station, such as dropping off a retriever pup that needs some grooming with a Siamese cat who is finished with her grooming but wants to play in the playpen area. In some levels you need to orchestrate this switch as much as possible in order to make your cash quota. Speaking of different kinds of cats and dogs, each one will have its own unique attributes (like customers in Diner Dash), such as Abyssinians who have medium patience and medium service speed and poodles with low patience but fast service speed.
You’ll start off in a regular spa and then advance to a beach, followed by New York City, and three more after that (with 10 levels per spa). An issue I had was that each location had the same counter and station layout so it didn’t feel like there was much incentive to unlock new locations (unlike a game like Go Go Gourmet, where new kitchens always looked and felt different). The aesthetic upgrades were also disappointing; do you really care if your spa has a circle pattern on its wallpaper or flowers? I didn’t.
A couple of minor surprises are in store, however, such as a visit from Flo from Diner Dash with her retriever, Skillet, but there aren’t many of these worthy moments.
It would be remiss not to mention the dialogue between Rocky and Wendy, which takes place between each level, is downright painful. I don’t mind the odd animal pun like "Our furless friend is going to have a RUFF day" but there are one or two of these eye-rolling lines each time they speak to each other, such as "the kitties are looking MEWtiful," "We have this place looking PURRfect" or "Color me CATatonic." Sigh.
Along with the main Career mode is an Endless Shift, where you can see how long you can serve a never-ending streaming of pets. Players can also earn medals for performing well.
We didn’t dislike Doggie Dash, but we were, ahem, doggone disappointed with it. Sure, it’s a decent game but perhaps we hold PlayFirst at very high regard or believe a time management game should offer something new to the genre (or both). That said, players (and for sure animal lovers) will enjoy playing the game during its free 60-minute trial, but there’s little reason to play beyond that.