Release Date: February 28, 2006
When I received my review titles, Neopets: Pet Pet Adventure - The Wand of Wishing for the PSP spilled out onto my lap, and I sighed, thinking to myself, "Great, I'm taking one for the team here." The cover art had a cute little cat, dog and some sort of mutant-looking thing (all done up in pastels) holding what looked like a wooden sword. What was I to expect? I know next to nothing about the Neopets franchise. I hadn't read any preview or hype material on this little title, and after watching the opening cinematic, I was left wondering how long it would take before I was scratching out my eyes. After laboring through the opening sequences and in the in-game tutorial quests, I began to see a slight glimmer of enjoyment in this little title.
Pet Pet Adventure looks like a simple action adventure game upon a quick glance, but it's actually more of an RPG. You begin by picking out a template from a dog, cat, squirrel or turtle. They're not exactly these animals but close mutant facsimiles, and each one has its one characteristics that you can build on. It's the basic setup: a balanced class, magic-heavy class and melee-heavy class. As you progress, each of your stats will level up, and you'll find new items to equip and spells you can use. The system is simple and somewhat robust, but the menus are awkward to navigate.
Despite its simple and childish appearance, Pet Pet Adventure houses an in-depth attunement system for casting spells. There are several types of spells, and you need to find icons to make your little guy able to cast them. These attunements – earth, water, air, dark, fire and water – will play an important role within the game. For instance, using counter-spells against a boss will be much more effective in attacking him or defending yourself. Using a dark aligned spell to shield yourself will eat up dark attacks, and light attacks will crush dark defenses. This is quite clever for a game that aims itself at the Pokemon market. It's nothing too complex, but the fact that the system is there is a nice way to get you to strategize about your character's development and loadout.
The plot is decidedly not complex. If you take it as lightly as you should, or if you're 10 years old, the story will be rather funny. There are some hefty cinematic sequences spread out through the storyline as it develops. Basically, you've teleported yourself into this new world to get back a wand that your mistress has been protecting from a bad guy, and you solve a lot of mysterious quests along the way, much like Kane in "The Legend of Kung-fu." Got it? Good. The story is wholesome, clean and there's nothing questionable or objectionable to it. Some games, like Ratchet and Clank, Jax and Metal Arms, may look cartoony and silly, but contain some humor that isn't appropriate for young kids. With Pet Pet, you need not be concerned about this unless you object to a two-tailed squirrel shooting fireballs at a pit bull-like creature. The nice thing about Pet Pet's quest is that each of the areas develops nicely into defined areas with their own distinct feel and look.
Pet Pet also boasts some pleasant visuals for a handheld. It is still surprising to me when I watch a nicely animated cinematic sequence on my PSP, only because the little guy can reproduce movie quality video on a widescreen format. That's all pre-rendered, which makes it less impressive, but nonetheless, it is a nice flourish to have in the midst of a handheld game like this. The in-game engine does a great job of making the world brightly colored, maintaining the delightful ambience. The greens are lush, and the dark shadows are foreboding. The monsters are reasonably well animated but get rehashed throughout the level you're playing. Your little furry guy looks good, and each one of the four character types has its own little animations and movement style, which create a sense of personality.
My only grievance is that the camera can rotate, but it can't tilt or zoom out. A lot of your little trinkets and tokens for aligning your character are hidden in such a way that if you leave the camera alone, you'll miss out on potential finds. This annoys me because it creates a false sense of challenge, much like chucking a ton of bad guys at you just before a save point. While we're on the topic of challenge, this is where Pet Pet stumbles. While the game progresses visually into some truly unique and differentiated level design (no two levels in the game look the same), you would expect the gameplay to evolve similarly. Unfortunately, Pet Pet Adventures doesn't get much more difficult than it becomes in the first few levels. Once you get your ranged spells and weapons, the game becomes almost too easy. I suppose this is fine for little kids who want to be rewarded by following through the game and completing the tasks, but for a veteran gamer, Pet Pet simply becomes too easy, and any complexity or subtlety it was generating is thus lost.
I'll admit that I was very pleasantly surprised by Neopets: Pet Pet Adventure. For a title aimed at little kids, it certainly reflects that little kids are capable of handling a lot more than past generations of gamers. It's nice to see that this level of complexity is seeping downward through the genres and markets because it only means that games will be that much deeper and complex as these savvy generations grow older and demand more from their games. For a handheld offering, it is a visually tone and polished piece. The elemental alignment system is a great means of introducing young players to RPG elements and systems. The action is fierce but not too violent; however, as the game progresses and your character becomes more powerful, the enemies remain the same, and thus the challenge diminishes. While older gamers may find Pet Pet to be silly and frivolous, I see it as being perfect for a boy or girl between the ages of 10 and 15.