Developer: Arthur Ham
Price: $0.99 Download on the App Store
Pet Pals - As someone who rather pathetically longs for a dog, but finds the combination of living in an apartment and owning two cats to be somewhat of an obstacle, I have to say that Pet Pals is...well, it's not as good as a the real thing, but as far as substitutes go, it's not so bad.
Pet Pals, created by Sparebytes.com, is a really cute, highly interactive virtual pet application. Players can have three pets at a time — choose from a dog, a cat, a bunny, a penguin or even a pet rock (in case you couldn't guess, the rock is the easiest pet to care for), give them names and get ready to start taking care of your new virtual friend.
Pet Pals pets have an assortment of needs — food, hygiene, grooming, health, etc. In order to keep your pet happy and healthy, you must provide them with a good diet, give them toys to play with, keep their area clean and just generally keep track of their needs and try to do what they want. The store has a ton of different foods, toys and hygiene products, ranging from simple things like a bowl of kibble and a tennis ball to fancier items like ice cream sundaes and electric guitars.
In order to shop at the Pet Pals store, of course, you'll need money. There are several ways to earn money. First of all, as you train your pet, there are various milestones and achievements along the way, and most of those will result in some kind of cash bonus. (There's a list here.) Throughout play, also, little messages will pop up on your screen. "Dublin [my virtual pup] wants to play with the log," for instance. You'll have a set amount of time to get him the log from the shop, and if you do it in time, you'll get a cash reward and improve his happiness. (That being said, sometimes the item a pet wants is more expensive than the reward. Can't win 'em all!)
However, if you're not achieving quite as fast as you'd like, Pet Pals also offers three mini-games in which you can earn cash. One is called Highs & Lows — there's a number onscreen and you must guess if the number your pet is thinking of is higher or lower. There's also Sledding, which is self-explanatory, and Slots, which is also exactly what the name implies. While none of these mini-games are super enthralling, they're fun enough that earning money to care for your pet never feels like a chore.
The graphics and animation are really cute throughout Pet Pals, and the stability for me has been excellent.
While it seems difficult to actually kill your pets (I'm not sure if they even can die in Pet Pals and I certainly wasn't going to try to kill my pup), if you ignore them for a day or two, you'll definitely be greeted by a dirty, unhappy critter when you finally get around to checking on them. If you prefer something more low-maintenance, you may want to check out iFluff, but if you prefer a virtual pet that's more interactive, Pet Pals is a lot of fun.