When you see a game involving pets on a system, especially if it has a childish name and boasts about its number of minigames, you might automatically assume it is shovelware. In many cases, you wouldn’t be wrong! But if it’s a game by Nippon Columbia, there can be hidden depths to it. Pups & Purrs Pet Shop follows up on Pups & Purrs Animal Hospital, which offered hidden relationship building with coworkers, by really requiring you to care for animals and match them up with the best possible owners. It isn’t perfect, but it’s quite pleasant.
The gimmick behind Pups & Purrs Pet Shop is a simple one. You’re one of two new employees at Yuko’s pet store. Together with Shun, you learn from Mai the ins and outs of caring for cats and dogs. As you perform new tasks — the over 20 minigames boasted on the box and site — you’ll rank up. This will give you access to new items for the animals, new hairstyles and customization items for yourself, and money.
As you can imagine, these minigames tie in to actual animal care activities. You will feed them, brush them, bathe them, and play with them. However, there are also some I didn’t expect. For example, one of the earlier tasks is to check out customers, which means lining up the scanner with bar codes. You’ll also carrier-train animals, to get them accustomed to going in a carrier so it is easier for their new owners to take them home. All of these involve button presses, timing, and often paying attention. There are also various levels of difficulty, which open up as you clear prior ones, and result in better rewards.
In terms of quality, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I loathed the feeding minigame, since it involved trying to time dispensing the right number of food pieces due to the amount being obscured at the halfway point. Also carrier-training is barely a minigame, since it’s waiting until the animal walks fully into a crate and you press a button. But then you also get games like fetch, which is genuinely fun.
This means that the one of the game modes ends up being a little lackluster. After you start a file and begin playing Story Mode, you unlock Work Mode. This lets you play any minigame you opened up at the difficulty level of your choosing. But since these are so short and often don’t rely heavily on skill, there’s no real joy to playing them outside of context. It’s fine that it is there. Maybe a younger player will enjoy revisiting some. But the Story Mode is really where it’s at in Pups & Purrs Pet Shop.
Especially since that’s where the really enjoyable element I didn’t expect in Pups & Purrs Pet Shop appears. After proving yourself, you are given permission to use the store’s PC to order new pets. You can take points you earned from work each day to pick out which cats and dogs will be sold at the store. After caring for them enough to get them up to one star, you can then find them a forever home. You can see their breed, gender, and “vibe” when picking them out, with more breeds appearing as you unlock them by ranking up as an employee. Customers who come in will be looking for specific sorts of animals, and you can even have a wait list for folks looking for the right kind of pet.
So there really is a rudimentary management option here. You need to consider what people are looking for and factor that into which animals you take in and raise. This also provides motivation to keep ranking up, as the number of animals you can keep in the shop is limited until you unlock more display kennels by playing. This means each day you do as many tasks as necessary to make time advance and prepare animals. You also need to find that delicate balance between placing pets in the Play Room, to increase their “pep,” while also keeping them safe and fed in the Displays. When you’ve done a “good enough” job caring for them, you can send them home with their perfect matches. Which frees up room and earns you enough money for new pets. It’s a simple, but satisfying, gameplay loop.
Pets & Purrs Pet Shop is not a shockingly detailed store management simulation, but it also isn’t a mediocre minigame collection. There’s actual thought put into it, with the Story Mode being a genuinely pleasant and even cozy opportunity to care for cute animals and find them homes. It pleasantly surprised me. So while not every minigame is going to be great, they’re often so swift that it doesn’t matter and you can focus on the enjoyable elements.
Pets & Purrs Pet Shop will come to the Nintendo Switch on August 10, 2023.