Dogs! They’re everywhere! Big dogs and little dogs and in-between dogs, brown dogs and white dogs and black dogs, dogs wearing hats and dogs wears shoes and dogs wearing sunglasses, dogs on surfboards and dogs on bicycles and dogs on stage. I get giddy thinking about the number of dogs in Pupperazzi, so you’ll have to forgive me if I go off on any tangents of OMGSOCUTE! Pupperazzi is what it sounds like: a game that combines the… “noble” job of a paparazzi, and puppies. That’s right, it’s about taking photos of dogs. Finally, two of my favourite things mashed together in video game form! Needless to say, I’ve had loads of expectations for the game.
The premise is pretty simple: you are a camera (literally a camera on legs, you can see it in your shadow as well as when you take selfies) in a world populated by a handful of vaguely human-like creatures and loads of doggos. Players visit different places at different times of day to get different tasks to complete. There are only a handful of pretty large locations (lighthouse, boardwalk, city, park, moon – yeah, really) but most can be accessed at four different times (cloudy/rainy, sunny, sunset, night) so that really expands replayability. The game will only take a couple of hours to finish, but for completionists and trophy hunters, there’s plenty more beyond the end credits.
Of course, it can’t just be as simple as “meet dogs, take photos, rinse and repeat.” It’s pretty close, but there is definitely some more complexity to it. As you become a better photographer, and share your photos online, you’ll make more money and gain more followers. More followers unlock new places to visit, while money unlocks some of the better parts of the photo parts of the game: upgrades! There’s a bunch of lens and film options, as well as a flash that disorients the poor pups. Of course, you’ve got the basics lenses: zoom, fish-eye, etc. But there are also fun ones (like the pixel lens that makes everything, well, pixelated) and helpful ones (the slow-mo lens slows everything down to a crawl and makes it easy to capture images of fast-moving dogs). Same with the film: there’s basics such as sepia or black-and-white, as well as some more… errr… colourful options. I wouldn’t dare say some are ugly but some are definitely not aesthetically pleasing to me. Still, to each their own. There isn’t an overwhelming number of upgrades, but to earn enough money to buy each one can take a surprising amount of time compared to how long it takes to get to the game’s credits.
To earn followers, you have to post to social media. If you post too much, people will get bored. Too much of the same thing? Also boring. Basically, don’t run your account like our editor-in-chief, Matt, does with all those Miku posts (I approve of this advice – ed). Basically, you can’t post a lot at once and want them to be varied enough. The ones that people seem to love involve dressing up the dogs (yes, it’s an option!) and having them doing people things, like surfing. To make money, requests are key. As a bonus, requests will also help earn followers. The requests are varied enough to keep my interest after dozens of options. Requests sometimes involve that the player gets involved (my favourite involved finding a theatre troupe, putting hats on them, and taking a photo to prove they now have hats) but are often more passive (my favourite was trying to get a picture of a famous doggo skateboarder doing a specific trick, the slow-mo lens was perfect for that).
There is a small amount of platforming action in the game. Sometimes you need to bounce up buildings or hop from one place to another to get the requested photo or find a new request. It’s nothing too difficult or too frustrating; most involve a little bit of leg work and a lot of bouncing on awnings. I knew about this and was concerned that it would turn me off the game, as I don’t actually like platformers, but it blended seamlessly with openly wandering the locations.
So the gameplay itself is solidly amusing, but how about the controls? It basically follows the standard for first-person games: on mouse/keyboard, look around using the mouse and use WASD to move, while on controller you use the left stick to move and the right to look around. It takes a bit of time with either option to gain muscle memory for opening menus and taking photos, so moving back and forth can be confusing, but let’s be real: nobody does that. I preferred the controller because I despite WASD movement, but the plentiful amount of people that disagree with me will be just peachy with the mouse/keyboard setup.
To this point, we’ve got lots of good things going on. The difficulty is pretty easy, leading to happy times rather than angry-frustrated times. There’s a good selection of dog breeds and accessories, so there’s an endless amount of pups to pose for photos. Taking photos is easy, and the many lens/film options available really liven things up.
I’ve babbled quite a bit about the goods things in the game, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some parts that just didn’t work. For one, I can’t for the life of my figure out how to save, or when it might be saving. Does it save when I leave a location? Does it even save if I properly exit the game? I was nervous to ever close the game, and with good reason because at one point, I did somehow lose two hours of progress. I still haven’t figured out how, but honestly, redoing those missions weren’t the end of the world. It was just a frustrating communication oversight to the player that could have been avoided. Another issue I ran across was using an ultrawide monitor: when in the photo menu, all the options are cut off, and that means I don’t have a chance in hell of recycling photos for more room on my camera. I literally needed to change what screen I was using to play the game. Granted, not everyone uses these monitors, but they’re pretty common these days (especially for people that enjoy games) so this will hopefully be addressed via an update soon enough. I’m not going to let it affect the score as a result.
Here’s the thing about Pupperazzi: it isn’t perfect, but it is perfectly happy. For days I’ve been obsessed with meeting new dogs, dressing new dogs, photographing new dogs, petting new dogs… you get the idea. Lord knows the world is a difficult enough place right now, and Pupperazzi makes things seem lighter and easier while playing. Photographers like myself will get a kick out of how the developers recreated the photographic process in a video game. Animals lovers will adore meeting each and every furry being. Aside from those two things that really irk me, the game is quite soothing… unless you’re scrambling to take a photo of that ONE dog that will inevitably keep running away. And then you’ll finally snap the sneaky little doggo and life will be all the happier.