The life and times of Crapface.
It’s genuinely difficult to review a game like Animates, which is a Tamagotchi-style virtual pet game from developer DreamCatcher. The difficulty comes from the fact that Animates is obviously for five-year-olds. If you’re at the level of reading comic books and playing with action figures, you are too old for this game. I am a 25-year-old man who is married and owns a house. You may as well ask the five-year-old to review Twilight Princess. But even at its core, Animates fails to deliver on its simplistic premise. What premise is that, you say? Players choose a species of Animate, how many Animates they want to raise, and then go about helping it survive in the horrifying world of Emptiness.
The problems start right off the bat, as the reading skills required by a potential player are without a doubt higher than the intended audience. Mommy and daddy will need to sit right there, reading the words to their young tot, while the child pokes furiously at the touch screen, which is where all the "action" takes place. You can raise up to five Animates at a time, all of which look like Pokemon rejects. You can give them individual names—I named mine "Boots," but later referred to it as "Crapface."
As soon as the little half-wit escapes from the confines of its egg, it is utterly helpless. It will follow, with very little zeal, your impatiently tapped commands. The entire interface is mapped to the touch screen. Lots of fairly large buttons clutter the boarders of the touch screen, and the "Help" button is always flashing in case you need to be reminded of how to press one of the buttons or tap on the landscape. Your Animate will require a variety of things like food, water, showers, bathroom breaks, exercise, praise, and scolding. Tap various pieces of the morbidly boring landscape to make your Animate hobble towards that point, losing energy at a fairly constant rate while doing so. You see, kids, Animates run with all the spunk of a one-legged dog on morphine. Also, the dog is blind. Seeing as you must constantly tap-tap-tap on the touch screen to make your Animate go in that direction, it takes a good amount of time to wander across the map. Now, there are other Animates that live in the horrifying world of Emptiness, but you can’t interact with them. They won’t dance for you or anything.
Precious water, food, and bathrooms are scarce, to say the least. The landscape kind of fades toward the top of the touch screen, so you can’t see what’s beyond the horizon. Furthermore, the zoom function is only good for seeing your Animate really close or not quite so close. Want to zoom out and really get a feeling for the lay of the land? Sorry, buddy, not in this game! Crapface limped across the world of Emptiness for a really long time looking for food, water, and soccer balls. The occasional slide or swing will allay the little bastard’s need to expel energy for a time, but to really tire him out, you need to track down the mini-games, which are scattered throughout the land. The mini-games are all basically variations on Whack-a-Mole (including—wait for it—Whack-a-Mole itself), and I guess they’re sort of fun, but they get old pretty fast and certainly don’t elevate the game at all.
As your Animate plays some mini-games, almost drowns in a spring, leaps to the top of a series of pillars, and learns how to run (in short bursts), he’ll gain half a star in growth points. I’m going to be honest here: It took me almost two hours to get the little bugger up to a single star, and my brain had numbed by that point. I was not going to torture myself to see what would happen if he got all five stars. Does it evolve? Does it breed? Well, no. Just look in the instruction booklet. "The more gold stars [your Animate] has, the stronger your Animate will be. When your Animate has achieved the maximum in all categories, and you have won all the [mini-game cups], you can decide if you want to set it free." Basically, you play this game until the Animate gets a good report card, then you get to stop playing and start again! Or, you can keep playing with your maxed-out Crapface and get no satisfaction whatsoever in doing so!
This game may entertain your kid for about ten minutes, but the slow pace and lack of any real reward system means that Little Billy will put it down and be off chasing a butterfly before you know it. If you want to engage your kid in a virtual world, try Pokemon. Everybody loves Pokemon, and at least those little critters turn into cool things like Charizards and Tyranitars. Another good alternative is Nintendogs, which is so much more rewarding and fun than Animates.