Do you remember the late nineties trend of eccentric virtual pet sims? The PSone had the Japanese obscurity Pet in TV and conversions of the Creatures series, Seaman left many a Dreamcast owner disturbed, while Nintendo was once working on the innovative sounding Cabbage for the failed 64DD. The fad even spread to monster battlers with games such as Monster Rancher and Monkey Puncher. But when the PS2, GameCube, and Xbox arrived, these oddities become a distant memory – it wasn’t until the dawn of the Nintendo DS that virtual pets became vogue once again.
Wobbledogs Console Edition – first released on Switch and PC in 2021, and now available on Xbox One and PS4 – fits neatly into that magical era otherwise known as the ‘90s. It even loosely resembles a late Dreamcast game, opting for a chunky, low polygon, aesthetic.
The concept is simple, likewise. You’re presented with a room resembling a creche and introduced to a handful of wobbly, boxy, canines who you can pet, command, breed, and play with. It’s the breeding – or rather the “gut flora” – aspect where the depth lies. To tick off objectives from the lengthy task list, you’re going to need to mutate your pups by feeding them an ever-growing variety of foods. Fries, lasagne, onion rings, coconuts, candy apples, and maybe (just maybe) some dog food.
Unsurprisingly, it begins with a warning not to feed your beloved pets the foods depicted. Because Wobbledogs age and die, you’re given an advance warning for this too, along with the ability to opt out of anything potentially distressing to younger gamers. This recalls the classic Viva Pinata, in the sense that Rare had to retroactively clarify that the colourful stars loved being smashed open. Now also seems a good time to point out that Wobbledogs don’t adhere to the rules of nature – the titular barking mad beasts hatch from incubated eggs and mutate after hanging in cocoons.
As not to overwhelm, things start small scale – a single room, a few Wobbledogs, a vending machine with a handful of snacks, and a step-by-step tutorial to teach the basics. Even at this early stage, you’ll soon start to clear off objectives from the task list. This is, essentially, the game’s backbone, showing your progress with a competition percentage. Moreover, every completed task unlocks a reward, which not only provides a steady feed of new food types, decorations, and playthings but also deepens the experience by occasionally providing additional rooms – meaning more Wobbledogs. Oddly, though, the tutorial overlooks room expansion – and it isn’t initially obvious how to add more rooms within the editor either.
Once you’ve acquired half a dozen Wobbledogs and started to mutate them with a variety of food, you’ll start to notice changes in colour and size. Once they reach adulthood, the breeding aspect comes into play. If you have an egg in your possession – found by commanding your loyal hounds to dig – you can enter a Matrix-style simulation room (see – it really is a ‘90s throwback) where you can crossbred litters, with each consecutive retry impacting the stability of the simulation. This is where you can end up with new colour or shape variants, or even genetic mutations such as extra limbs or – Lord forbid – a tail. Breeding only takes a minute or two, but still provides a welcome change of pace from cleaning up poops and puddles.
There were times progression felt a little slow. After I had sunk a good six hours in, new variations (including the fabled no-legged Wobbledog) weren’t really happening due to a gene pool all too vanilla, and the remaining tasks were mostly of the ‘perform a certain action 50 times’ variety. If you aren’t fully committed to gaining 100% task completion by this point, you may have to spur yourself on.
Rest assured though that younger gamers will likely relish what’s on offer here – Wobbledogs kicking the bucket notwithstanding. I can imagine children having a blast naming their pets, decorating and creating themed rooms, and giggling over the fluorescent pink Mr. Whippy poops. Adult gamers who survived the horrors of Seaman may get a kick out of it too – it’s hard to dislike something this silly.
Published by Secret Mode and developed by Animal Uprising, Wobbledogs Console Edition is out now on PS4 and Xbox One. It first launched on Switch and PC in 2021.