2014 brought us so many things. A German victory in the world cup, planes disappearing and a new king assumed the throne in Spain. It also brought us a plethora of ‘humorous’ simulation games. Probably the most well-known of the bunch was Goat Simulator, but you also had titles such as I Am Bread, Tabletop Simulator and the game I’m reviewing today, Domestic Dog Simulator, thrown into the mix as well. Some, like Tabletop Simulator, attempted to mix humour with actual features, while others decided that humour was the most important aspect of this genre and decided to throw logic and, at times, functionality, out of the window.
Domestic Dog Simulator falls into the latter category, and it falls hard. Rather than start with the overwhelming negatives, I’ll begin with what I did like. First off, you’re plopped off into a world which is surprisingly big and interestingly designed. It’s pretty fun wandering around, avoiding the raccoons, fleas and cars while scaring off any squirrels and dogs. It feels fairly well fleshed out; there are plenty of dog-related shops dotted around the town, including a “pay ‘n’ spray” in case you weren’t satisfied with your randomly generated dog’s colouring. There are also plenty of parks, as you would hope in a dog simulator, and even a church and cemetery to befoul. The variety helps to keep the game fresh and enjoyable as there are plenty of places you’ve probably not found yet.
I’d like to be able to write another positive, but seriously, I’m struggling to think of one. The rest of the game feels hopelessly rushed, with no real thought put into any of it beyond the ability to urinate on everything in sight. I’m not sure what the idea behind the game is. After exploring the map, there’s not really anything to do that I can tell. It definitely wasn’t immediately obvious what I had to do at any rate. So after wandering around for around twenty minutes and having turned all the bushes, gravestones and sheep a shade of yellow, I was pretty much done with the game. With absolutely no direction, I had no inclination to continue playing and even now I’m thinking more along the lines of it’s not even worth revisiting rather than thinking maybe I missed something.
Within the game, you have a little HUD at the top of the screen, which displays a number of things, all relating to your dog. There’s an XP counter which goes up by one every millisecond, as well as your level, which seems a fairly meaningless number, as I didn’t see any changes on levelling up, and the amount of money you have. You also have your excretion power – normally this is urine, but if you eat chocolate, it’ll change itself to allow you to take an explosive dump on whatever you want. Then, on the far right, you have six levels for tiredness, thirst, hunger, poop, dog and strength. I’m not totally sure what the dog means, and I didn’t see any difference in my mutt when it had zero strength to when it had full strength. I also didn’t really notice any differences when he was hungry or needed to poo either, so definitely unsure what these are for. I was able to find out that if you don’t drink enough, you can’t pee on things, which is a devastating issue for you if you enjoy taking a leak. The other section, for tiredness, is probably the most frustrating feature I’ve ever seen in a game. The HUD is useful in that it tells you the level of your tiredness, but it never makes any indication when it nears the bottom, meaning if you’re not careful, your pooch will become immobilised to randomly sleep wherever he stands. Could be safe at home, or could be in the middle of the road. Either way, it’s not helpful and makes the game all the more frustrating.
Levelling up is an irritation as well. Although there are a few items which give you experience points, you’ll always be constantly levelling up to a magic and pointless new level which does nothing to your character. Once you’re there, you have an enormous, flashing message on your screen that screams “LEVEL UP” at you for a little over a second and then disappears again. It is horrifically designed and is incredibly jarring when it appears, but there’s no way to prevent it as you’ll always be levelling up.
My final gripe is with exiting the game. The developer clearly knew this game would turn off even the most juvenile of players with its crass humour and appalling gameplay, that even exiting the game has been made slightly less user friendly. It may just be a small thing, but given the amount of tripe I had to play through, exiting was the one solace I had in this game. As soon as you press escape, the menu flashes up and the big “EXIT” appears in front of you, only to immediately disappear, because instead of the menu persisting on the button press, you must hold down the escape key to navigate the menu. Thankfully, there’s only one option in it that anyone would ever want to press to end their torment of Domestic Dog Simulator.
Frankly, this is probably one of the worst games I’ve ever played. With no help or instructions, it’s incredibly difficult to fathom what you’re supposed to do in the game, and combined with the terrible UI, it’s a wonder that people are still buying it. I can’t imagine anyone playing it and thinking that it’s worthy of any time at all, much less actually enjoying it. It’s simply dreadful and Surreal Distractions should hang their heads in shame.