Reviewed: December 22, 2007
Released: November 5, 2007
Virtual pets have been around for quite some time, but it has been the past few years with the advent of Nintendogs and Webkinz that the virtual pet genre has really taken off. As a result, a great many developers have jumped on the virtual pet and Sims-style gameplay wagon – and for every winner that hits the shelves (MySims), the shovelware pile gains two or three.
Shrek: Ogres and Dronkeys, the latest of these games, combines the successful money-printing Shrek license with a bare-bones life simulator, which puts the gamer in the role of playing Mary Poppins to the menagerie of green hued ogre triplets and donkey/dragon hybrids, the children of the main characters featured in the most recent Shrek movie, Shrek: The Third.
The gameplay is as basic as it gets; use the stylus to move the characters around, collect items, teach skills, drag-and-drop food, and then every now and then…play a minigame or two. Yep, pretty much like every other virtual pet game on the market. And for a system that features the hands-down best virtual pet offering on any system ever (Nintendogs), Ogres and Dronkeys just doesn’t cut the mustard.
The main difference with Ogres and Dronkeys, is that the gamer is taking care of a group of “pets” rather than a single pet. While this does cut back on the standard downtime found with these games, it also cuts back on the degree of character interaction – which does not help build the sense of loyalty and love that the virtual pet was originally intended to incite.
I hate to be a reviewer to make comparisons to other games, but with Ogres and Dronkeys, it is impossible to avoid, because it tries too hard to be the next Nintendogs, but falls short. Dragging and dropping toy blocks and jacks just does not match the skill testing Frisbee play and obedience training of Nintendogs, and leading the “kids” around in firefly collecting missions is nowhere near as fun, nor cute, as the Nintendog present-collecting and poop-gathering walks. Even the requisite bathing scenes are only slightly as cute as Nintendog’s puppy scrubbing.
Ogres and Dronkeys does feature a handful of mini-games to build monetary units (used to buy new toys, etc.), but none require all that much skill. But for parents who are familiar with the quality skill-based gaming that the Webkinz delivers (parents, Webkinz site is great for casual games), Ogres and Dronkeys is way too simplistic. Draw a line here, draw a line there, that pretty much sums up the mini-games. Even Hello Kitty Party Pals featured deeper mini-games on the GBA.
Visually, the game looks quite good for a handheld title. It might not win any prizes for presentation, but the characters and environments fit well with the movie’s thematics.
The sound leaves a bit to be desired, with one of the most annoying background loops yet heard in a game. At least there is some decent voice work to achieve some level of balance.
For a full priced game, I expected a lot more from Ogres and Dronkeys. On a system that is already had its fill of Nintendogs and Sims clones (just look at all of the “Petz” games: Dogz, Catz, Hamsterz, Horsez), we are looking for more than the standard drag-and-feed, tap-and-walk, toss’em a toy gameplay of these virtual pet games. If you are looking for something to fit the virtual pet bill, just pick up a used copy of Nintendogs or MySims. Or, you could simply wait for Viva Pińata to hit the DS, at least it add something different to the genre.
Shrek: Ogres and Dronkeys is not necessarily a terrible game, it is more that it just does nothing to stand out from the crowd of pet simulators that are already saturating the market. With Pixel Chicks, Webkinz, Club Penguin, the gazillion Petz games, and even the beloved Nintendogs all vying for the kids time, there just is not a whole lot that Ogres and Dronkeys has going for it, other than the Shrek name.