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Barbie and Her Sisters: Puppy Rescue
Game Reviews

Barbie and Her Sisters: Puppy Rescue

Barbie fans will likely see past the flaws and enjoy an otherwise fluffy, rounded-corners game of animal rescuing.

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Boy, it sure was great getting to play Fallout 4 all last week! Yup, conquering the Commonwealth in my Power Armor while blasting baddies into chunky salsa was sublime. That was last week, though, and now it’s time to move on to a new adventure. A puppy adventure, if you will. Yes, we’re going to look at Barbie and Her Sisters: Puppy Rescue, and this in turn will make us the only site online that links that game with Fallout 4. My brilliance cannot be understated.

Okay, here we go: Barbie and Her Sisters: Puppy Rescue has you playing as Barbie, a career woman whose latest endeavor is the titular animal rescue operation that she runs with her sisters. Barbie’s job is to go out there, find lost puppies and bring them back to the shelter. From there, you’ll set them up in cozily customizable kennel where the aforementioned siblings will bathe them, provide some basic training and release them back to their owners. The whole “find lost puppies and do anything but return them directly to the owner upon retrieval” thing is kind of odd to me, but I’m no animal rescue specialist.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Step one is to go fetch the puppies – see what I did there? You’ll go out and explore the city on your bike, searching for clues and eventually being pointed toward the lost pooch. When you find them you’ll need to coax them out via a simple Simon-says game. From there, it’s back to the shelter for some pro bono beastmastery.

Once the furball is back in the shelter, you’ll need to throw together some housing, groom the dog and train it before “graduation.” Once a pooch has graduated, it’s deemed safe enough to return to its owner. No rabies here, no sir! Presumably if the puppy escapes and has to be found again, it’ll need to be re-educated, which is a terrifying enough idea that any dogs Barbie rescues stay rescued.

Grooming and training are all accomplished through more simple minigames. It’s the housing thing that’s the problem – see, Barbie exists in a parallel dimension where puppies can run out of energy. Crazy, right? Like a mobile game, when a puppy is drained of puppy power, it needs real time to regenerate. Buying better housing using bones earned from other activities will cut down on the time it takes for a puppy to be ready to go again, but it can still take awhile. Ideally you’ll have several puppies in the mill at once in order to cut down on the time you spend waiting to get some work done.

It’s kind of a bizarre system, especially given that this sort of timer thing is typically used in games where you can pay to skip it and that option isn’t available here; presumably it’s there so you spend time rescuing additional dogs and filling up the kennels. That’s also pretty much the whole game. You’ll repeat the rescue-train-graduate loop until, I assume, you get sick of it and Barbie moves on to a career as a physicist or something.

Presentation is pretty much exactly what you think it is. It looks like all the game’s puppies are based on winners of a puppy photo contest that Little Orbit ran before the game launched, so that’s cute I suppose. Two quibbles here: the framerate tanks on a regular basis in the open world puppy-seeking sections. While the Wii U isn’t exactly a powerhouse, it should be able to handle whatever this game dishes out. The other thing is that whoever handled sound design probably should have recorded more than two puppy sounds and more than one track of BGM. I’m never going to get that song out of my head. Now I know how my colleague Josh felt while playing fellow Little Orbit game Planes Fire and Rescue.

I’m clearly not the intended demographic here, so naturally I didn’t find Barbie and Her Sisters Puppy Rescue especially engaging. I could see it being a hit with the target audience, though the bike controls might take a little getting used to as they’re strangely similar to the driving controls in Grand Theft Auto. The point is that this is a fluffy, rounded-corners game starring cute dogs that features women in a STEM field…er, puppy rescue counts as STEM, right? – so it’s a decent enough purchase for the target audience member in your life.