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In our Family Plays posts we ask everyday families to try out a new game and tell us what they made of it. This week we are looking at PlayStation Vita Pets with the Standing family...

PlayStation Vita Pets works as an all-round pet simulator but with the added bonus of a campaign mode that neatly fuses many of its simulation aspects into a nicely paced story.

You'll be picking your new canine friend the first moment you step into the game from a selection of four different breeds (each with different voices). From here it's back to your home where you'll get to know your dog and how to earn buddy points and money with various activities.

This should all be familiar if you have played Nintendogs as you can teach your friend new tricks and later combine them into a trick game. The usual petting or playing ball or tug toy games build up your points to unlock more items in the shop but certain skills also level up - giving Pets a much deeper and meaningful sense of game-play.

It's this sense of progression that my kids loved the most about Pets.

These skills aren't just for show either because the best part of the game comes with its campaign quest to uncover what happened to King Rufus and his loyal hound. It's a fairly lightweight tale but carries with it enough fairy-tale charm and boys-own adventure spirit to engage and entertain. Oddly enough I was reminded of the link between the hero and his dog in Fable 2 - and Pets gave me that same kind of friendship towards a virtual dog when going through this campaign - something I really wasn't expecting.

[caption id="attachment_2193" align="alignnone" width="350"]PlayStation Vita Pets PlayStation Vita Pets[/caption]

There's a fair dose of woodland exploration to go with this campaign that sees you uncovering old statues, digging for clues or treasure and using your skills, tricks and abilities to unlock further parts of the map.

On its own this would be enough to keep us engaged but the inclusion of some virtual reality camera features and voice & facial recognition tech really made that connection between the player and the dog a meaningful one.

It also did a good job of teaching my kids that dogs and pets in general need looking after - an issue that's always hard to get through to kids. Keeping our dog fed, washed and happy was done with the right balance, enough playfulness and visual cues to make it seem more fun and less preachy.

And those visuals! Oh boy, the Vita really shines with the variety of atmospheric environment you're going to be exploring. But the real winner is the animation of the dogs that are so spot on it's impossible not to feel a connection with them.

All that keeps Vita Pets from top marks is an issue of guidance at certain points. Sometimes it's overbearing in telling you what to do and at other times, like finding out how to teach your dog how to jump, was very frustrating. These felt like an unnecessary road bumps in an otherwise extremely pleasant journey.

Vita Pets actually offers a story to go with the dressing up and games you'd expect as standard. Not only that but it weaves the two together creating a game that I, a self confessed cat lover, actually wanted to play and finish.

If you've got kids that want a virtual experience of owning a puppy then PlayStation Vita Pets is an awesome experience and I can't wait to see the next steps it'll take.

Family Likes:

  • Pet Care
  • Adventure Story
  • Puzzles and Quizzes
  • Uses Camera, Touch Screen and Microphone
Avatar for Andrew Robertson
Andrew Robertson
Andy Robertson is the editor of AskAboutGames and has written for national press and broadcast about video games and families for over 15 years. He has just published the Taming Gaming book with its Family Video Game Database.