|Title: Family Dog
Rom Player: ZSNES
Synopsis: The product of a movie or television license tends to be a function of the creativity of the developers and the currently available technology. With a license like the barely-mediocre cartoon Family Dog, creativity can be safely ruled out. If the game were developed today, it would probably be a third person 3D action game (Spider-Man, Shrek, Buffy, the Hulk). Back during the reign of Nintendo, it could only be a platformer. I think the logic goes something like this: Everyone liked Super Mario Brothers. Super Mario Brothers was a platformer. Therefore, if I have a license with no game potential, I should just make it a platformer, because then people will like it even though it isn't any fun and doesn't make any sense. I tried to think of something to add to this paragraph, but I can't even invent another justification.
The graphics are average, and the music and sound are utterly forgettable and can be ignored. What makes this game is its distinctive style of play. Distinctive does not equal good.
Gameplay: 2 In this platformer, you play the eponymous family dog, a little white mutt owned by an average suburban family. Average, in this case, refers to a family with a half-mile long living room boasting fifteen couches, thirty copies of the same painting, a comparable number of chairs and end tables, several curtains that appear to be hung on blank walls, and a number of entertainment systems without so much as a television that rise sixteen feet into the air. Oh yes, and there are more paintings up there, along with a couple hundred randomly placed wall lamps and no visible ceiling. As the little white mutt, your goal is to...wait for it...walk from one end of the room to the other!!! An insider at Malibu Games told me that he always wanted to play a game where you could be a dog and just run around a living room. Yeah, you and me both, pal. I just wanted to slam my head into the screen.
So what can the mutt do in his enormous doggie playground? Well, he can walk, but only for a few seconds before he inexplicably drops his head and starts sniffing the floor, slowing to a fraction of his normal speed and basically just wasting time - I could find no place in the game where sniffing accomplished anything. Fortunately, the X button allows you to run, keeping your patience intact at the sake of the frustration that comes from falling off the center of platforms due to lousy hit detection.
Jumping is also an interesting experience. Push A or B and the dog will jump straight up about twice his height; push sideways while jumping, or better yet, jump while running, and you'll clear a fair distance but less height. Now it becomes stupid: pushing up while jumping allows the dog to jump half again as high as a normal jump, and pushing sideways after jumping straight up turns the dog into a flying squirrel. That has to be it, even if the developers didn't put in any graphics to show it; with a straight jump that is steered in the air, you can travel almost twice the sideways distance as with a jump made at a full sprint. I don't get it.
The house is full of things that can hurt you, including flying books (yes, they flap like birds), the family cat, perpetually-spinning tops, and a demonic boy with assorted toy weapons. To combat these dangers (spinning tops kill, you know), the dog has a mighty Power Bark (*fanfare*), which reduces enemies to a puff of smoke after a few blasts. You have a finite number of Power Barks (*fanfare*), displayed by a counter in the corner of the screen, making you think you should conserve them, but the game has an ingenious method of replenishing them - using them to kill enemies! That's right, when you bark at an enemy and kill it, you get more barks. An enemy that takes two barks to kill gives you four back, and an enemy that requires four barks returns five. So much for difficulty. Your health is represented by a bone at the top of the screen that shortens as you get hurt and lengthens as you pick up bones floating over random objects.
Did I mention the floating pickups? There are bones and a couple of different shaped things that could be dog treats or fake bones or turds or anything else; one of them restores your Power Barks (*fanfare*) and the other adds to your score… I think there was a score meter. Whatever.
At this point you ask, the game could only get better after the living room, right? If by "better" you mean "even more stupid," you're absolutely correct! Introducing the first ever Fetch Simulator*TM*!! Yes, you heard me correctly. The demonic kid from the first level returns to throw a ball that you have to catch. In your way are tiny colored alphabet blocks that bring you almost to a complete stop (I think they emit some sort of force field), and you must jump over these blocks to catch the rolling ball (it speeds up after it hits the ground) before it reaches a little girl, who will promptly eat it and begin crying. If you catch the ball five times, you earn an extra life. If not, you just go on to the next level, which is mostly a copy of the first one.
After that comes the kitchen (imagine what you can use as enemies in a kitchen, you won't be far off) and another living room where our canine hero is chased by the devil child with a vacuum cleaner and impeded once more by those deadly little alphabet blocks.
After you avoid the kid, you go outside and somehow end up at the pound, you escape the pound, I think you end up in the woods or something. I don't know. I quit when I realized I could be slapping myself in the face with raw meat instead.
This is a public service announcement. If you haven't yet played Family Dog, pat yourself on the back and burn any hard drive found to have the ROM. If you have, walk into a cornfield at night without tinfoil on your head and ask the aliens to burn away the memory. I wish you luck.
Best Cheats: I decided I hated the game after ten minutes and used a Game Genie code for infinite health so I could see the rest of it without worrying about bad guys. I regret it.
Game Play: 2
Overall Rating: 3
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