Obscure Gaming – Dog’s Life

Box Art for the European Release.

I decided to put this game into this category due to the lack of public knowledge and attention this game has received. Also, it has been sometime since making a game in this category and I thought this game would fit the bill. Without further adieu, let’s dive into this action-adventure game from the days of the Playstation 2.

In order to have the ability to control other dogs, players must first complete small challenges of following button combinations on screen to learn some new moves before gaining access to a new breed.

Dog’s Life was released in 2003 in Europe and later 2004 in North America. The game follows the perspective of Jake, a small town farm dog, as he witnesses Daisy, a dog who he has feelings for, being taken away by the dog catcher. Jake decides to follow the dog catcher no matter where he goes to save the love of his life. Gameplay consists of taking control of Jake, as well as, over 15 different dog breeds with each one possessing different abilities that help the player overcome challenges and some puzzle elements. Missions are given to the player by humans in exchange for bones, which operate as a kind of level system that increase player stats. The game also features a mechanic known as “Smellovision”, which shows distinct scents that help the player compete in challenges where the rewards are bones. Some of the challenges include “territorial” games (in a game about dogs, this shouldn’t need to be explained), obedience trials, races, and tug-o-wars. The game also takes the player through 3 different areas of the game each with it’s own separate areas and districts. Clarksville, the rural hometown of Jake, Lake Minniwahwah, a ski resort set on a snowy mountain area, and Boom City, a cityscape that is home to the dog pound. There are several instances of interaction between NPCs and the player, such as their reactions to your tricks resulting in them giving you dog treats and if you pee or poo in front of them, they become very disgusted at you.

Example of Smellovision in action, each color represents the different challenges that a player can participate in with each unique area of the main levels.

All of these things being said, the game does have lots of crude humor or visuals that make it fun for pet lovers alike to play. I will say that having played this game when I was younger to having played it recently, it is very obvious that this game is more for kids rather than teenagers and adults. Nonetheless, I would say that there are unique elements to this game that people don’t typically see in your everyday game. Even critics were quick to praise the game for these kinds of elements, but became divided due to the blandness of gameplay and some outlets saying that the game was “fun but forgettable”. That last comment I would say is not always the case, I mean I still remember the game after nearly 15 years from when I first got it. That is what makes video games such an interesting topic is that despite the thousands of games created, people can still remember even the most obscure games they played years ago. Just one of the many reasons why video games have been a passion of mine ever since I can remember.

Screenshot of Jake interacting with one of many NPCs found throughout the game.

I would say to anyone to play this game, but I actually want to offer everyone a small challenge. Go to your local game store or online gaming service and just look for a game you have never seen before. Don’t read any prior reviews about the game, just buy it and give it a try. Who knows, maybe you’ll have found yourself a hidden gem of your own.

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