There are few games that truly scare me. I like to consider myself a professional, constantly exploring new worlds, enjoying new experiences, and growing as both a gamer and a writer within this ever-evolving industry of ours. I’m rarely surprised these days, and my many years of gaming have left me too aware of what’s around most virtual corners. Sure, there were a few moments in Penumbra: Overture that made my heart-beat a tad faster, and I’ve been caught off-guard by enough jump-scares to write a very boring and pointless article about how they make me feel. But no modern game has quite managed to capture that same fear that overwhelmed me as a boy playing games like Silent Hill or Resident Evil. For the longest time I considered it just another part of growing up, and wrote it off as if I were too brave for even the greatest game developers to toy with.
Well, I was dead wrong. There exists a game so terrifying that it could easily be used in place of chastisement, and fortunately for you I managed to swallow every bit of my pride for the playthrough. You see, I don’t hit my kids. Mostly because I don’t have any kids, because if I had any kids, I would hit them. And jail is no place for a man like me; not with my glowing olive skin, or deliciously pouty lips. My intention is not to come off as a jaded individual, but from an outsiders perspective it seems as if the lack of respect children have for their parents stems from a lack of punishment. Well, there’s finally a solution for those bruise-concealing parents that doesn’t involve weekly visits from Child Services. That solution, my friends, is the terrifying Paws & Claws: Pampered Pets Resort 3D.
Some games boast their beast, allowing players to familiarize themselves with their models, slowly learning their evils until hectic encounters become routine evasions rather than scary escapes. Some games, however, approach horror in a less traditional sense. The demonic creatures haunting the game that broke my “Johnson & Johnson: No More Tears” record don’t seem to bother with frightening imagery or realistic mechanics. Quite the opposite, really. Pets in the game look like bloated 3D models of poorly hand-drawn Disney animals, environments are bland, tacked-on backgrounds, and buildings look like dollar-store fishbowl decorations.
Instead of traditional monstrosities, the evil of Paws & Claws lives within its many indestructible puppies and kittens, always mocking me with their cold eyes. Watching me, waiting to blind me with a squirt of shampoo and overrun my recently acquired pet resort. Whatever story once existed within the walls of this recession-proof business is known only to the furniture, stained and painted-over a new chapter in its everlasting tale of darkness. But how does a simple downloadable Nintendo 3DS title replace years of heavily studied no-bruise-beat-down methods, you ask?
It’s simple, really. Paws & Claws is a game that could easily transform a young, naive and fun-loving girl in to a murderous sociopath with an eating disorder — constantly regurgitating remains from the thousands of puppies she was forced to pamper to a slow, skin-chaffing death for a profit essentially reinvested in a pet-pampering paradox lacking in any economical sense. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but let’s begin with the mind-numbingly boring gameplay: tasks in Paws & Claws involve what the title suggests; pampering pets. As fun as this sounds on paper, brushing, shampooing and petting a bunch of ungrateful little animals is about as fun as shoving sharp objects into your retinas — which coincidentally wouldn’t make playing the game troublesome, as even blind children with one arm could easily overcome the challenges. Even minutes after a frontal lobotomy. Failure simply isn’t an option, and that really depletes any sense of accomplishment.
I spent the better half of an hour trying to cause harm to one of the visiting pets without as much as a yelp. I understand that gaming is a medium for children and adults alike, and I also understand that some games have to cater to a younger audience, as well, but rewards without any stakes are only fun when gambling. Always catering to the lowest common denominator and treating players like they suffer from a severe intellectual disability is not helping them grow or learn; rather, it’s building a fence around their understanding of the medium, replacing reality with fuzzy kittens and Chris Hansen’s. Games are supposed to be fun after all, aren’t they? Well this one is not.
There are a lot of factors I consider before writing something off entirely, but the one thing that saves many games from reaching the Target bargain bin in a month is whether they offer any sort of enjoyment to the player. Unless your goal is to become a professional pet-rapist, this game of true malevolence offers so little, that an actual review would need no more than 50 words. What are those 50 words, you ask? “Do not play this game” typed ten times beneath an image of Satan brushing his horns with the blood of a thousand abandoned puppies.