Pupperazzi advertises itself as a game where you take pictures of heckin’ good dogs, and it’s a game where you take pictures of heckin’ good dogs – so in that case, it’s a five-star Game of the Year contender. It does exactly what it promises. Unfortunately, as the game goes on, the premise gets a little thin on the ground, and though its short run time means it will never overstay its welcome, like the flash of a camera it will be gone from your memory before you get a chance to think.
There’s some sense of progression still, which is the frustrating part. I’m not expecting a 200-hour long open-world experience, I just want things to link up a little more. You begin on the beach and can only take very basic pictures of dogs. In time, you’ll unlock new lenses and new film types, offering some variety, and can even dress the dogs up. But if you’re thinking that means you can create the doggy calendar of your dreams, guess again.
A few times I spent a decent amount of time lining my shot up, dressing my dog perfectly, using the right lens at the right zoom, and picking the perfect film type to capture the essence of this precious pooch. Then another dog would run over. The photo was ruined. In the picture below, which you may think looks very cute, that second dog is an intruder. A bone-stealing interloper. They say never work with children or animals, and I understand why.
Of course, this is a normal part of taking pictures of animals – they behave like animals. You could argue that this gives some added realism, but if that were the case I’d want to be able to tweak my photographs afterwards. Umurangi Generation, a photography sim made on a similarly small budget, has ways for you to play with the colour and composition afterwards, perfecting your snaps and bringing out their best qualities as your skills develop. Pupperazzi just lets you snap and move on.
And snapping and moving on is the name of the game. Well, the name is Pupperazzi, which is a pun on pup and paparazzi. Geddit? Anyway, you are given a handful of tasks in each location, but there’s no star rating for them. The game can’t distinguish between a good pic and a bad pic, it just needs to fulfil the description in the leanest sense. For a short game, I’d have preferred it to hold me to account just a little bit more. You can also upload your favourite pics to your fans for points, but the judgement here is weird. Aesthetically pleasing pictures can be pulled down because there are three dogs in them, while messy pictures can be given bonus points for being a group shot with three dogs in them. It makes no sense, and after a certain amount, you get told off for spamming and can’t upload them anymore. I know it’s to stop you maxing out your followers – which unlock new regions or new times of day – too quickly, but it also feels a bit mean that you share your sweet little pupper pics with these fictional fans and get told off for spam. I’m used to having my posts ignored on real Twitter, but I thought these guys would have my back.
The locations, at least, are fantastic. While none bar the final – which I will avoid spoiling here – are that creative, they all do a lot with their settings. The beach is basic as your starting zone, but the pier is alive with arcades and sports and skate parks. The wilderness has lakes and caves and fire watch towers. Even the city interrupts its grey, drab concrete with a lush park and a sophisticated cafe. You’re pushed to explore them too, bouncing on awnings, climbing into buildings to reopen them, moving obstacles to grant access to the puppers – this is by far the game’s best quality. However, it only occasionally makes the most of it.
In the skate park, there’s a dog leaping off the half-pipe doing tricks. There could be a special dog like this in every location, but mostly they just walk around. Some might sit at arcade cabinets or on top of scooters, but they don’t really do anything. A few more of these noteworthy dogs like this would do justice to Pupperazzi’s sets.
Ultimately there just isn’t enough here, and even for an indie game in a world of huge budgets, I don’t think it’s unfair to point that out. Pupperazzi is sweet and delivers what it promises, but you need to make your own fun because the game doesn’t test you in any meaningful way, and nor does it let you apply your own creativity to it enough. But it lets you take pictures of doggos, and that’s all some people will need.
Score: 3/5. An Xbox Series S code was provided by the publisher for this review.
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