My Animal Centre in Australia DS Review
There’s no denying that the Nintendo DS has pretty much got the market cornered when it comes to educational games, so it’s no surprise to see another one rolling off the production lines and on to shop shelves. This one is a little different from the usual Brain Training clones and the like, and is more of a niche market, but it’s definitely going about things the right way, kids love animals, kids love games, a game that teaches kids about animals has got to be a good thing, right?
Once you get past the menu screens and in to the game you will notice a distinct similarity to The Sims in the gameplay. Your vet starts off in a house, which you can guide them around using the stylus, and various items around the house can be interacted with, go to the fridge to get some food, over to the bed for a quick kip, that sort of thing. It’s a bit more dumbed down than The Sims, for instance whilst there’s a toilet in the bathroom you can’t, and don’t need to, actually use it. The only stats that you have to keep an eye on are your energy level, which can be topped up by eating, and your fitness level, which is easily kept healthy by sleeping or resting. So, it’s easy enough keeping your vet in good health, but really it’s all about the animals, but before you can admit any animals to your care you’ll have to make preparations. The two most vital items you’ll find in your house/surgery for that will be the bookcase, where you can read up about all the animals, and your PC, which you run your business from. Here you can buy things, animal feed, medical instruments, books about animals, extend your house/surgery, add furniture, build a treatment room for water based animals, build enclosures for each type of animal, or check the books, stock keep, check your records, that sort of thing. It’s where you’ll spend most of your time when you’re not treating animals. This in itself is also quite educational as it’ll teach the very basics of running a business. Anyway back to the animals, once you’ve read a book about a certain animal, and have built at least one enclosure then you’re ready to start admitting patients.
The first thing that will happen when an animal comes in to your surgery is you’ll go to the consultation room, here you can use all your medical instruments on the animal to find out what is wrong with it. The top screen will display a list of possible ailments, and as you use each of your instruments on it the animal the bars by the ailments will increase depending on the results of the examination. Once you’ve used all your instruments you should have a definitive diagnosis, which you can select, and if it’s nothing too serious, treat them then hand out your bill. If it’s something serious the animal will be put in to one of your enclosures where you’ll have to care for it for the duration of its stay. This part of the game bears a striking resemblance to Nintendogs; you can play games with the animal, pet it, feed it, and clean out its enclosure to keep it happy. As with the sim-like part of the game this is also quite dumbed down in comparison to Nintendo, but that’s to be expected from a game aimed at a younger audience. You might ask where the educational part of the game is though, so far all I’ve mentioned is similarities to two popular gaming franchises, well the education part comes from learning about the animals. Unlike in The Sims when you read a book from your book case you don’t just get an animation of your character reading the book, you get the pages of the book on the screen. Each breed of animal has three books to read, and with six breeds, kangaroo, koala, wombat, platypus, seal and dolphin, there’s quite a bit of information to learn here. You’ll also find books on Australia and your medical instruments, so you’ll not just be learning about the animals, but the country they’re native too and how to treat them too. There’s quite a bit of knowledge there, and also plenty of pictures, so if your little ones may have an interest in Australia, animals or being a vet this could be just the game for them.
For Rolf Junior
As I’ve said earlier this is a bit niche in the ‘edutainment’ market, but they’ve definitely gone about things the right way. The information contained in the game may not be of interest to everybody but by basing it around game models of two very successful franchises they’ve actually made it quite an enjoyable little game too. It’s nothing special, and does get a bit repetitive from time to time, cleaning up the animals crap can get a bit tedious, but it should keep younger gamers happy for a while.
The Sims plus Nintendogs, and you get to learn too.