REVIEW: Best Friend Forever - Nintendo Switch
Who would rename CHEESEBALL?
As a girl with a refined taste in games (cute, animal, simulation games) Best Friend Forever has been on my radar for a year or more after seeing it at some kind of online gaming conference. I expected this game to be the kind of thing I would have played on the Nintendo DS back in the day and it basically was! Which was both it's highlight and downfall in some places.
In Best Friend Forever, the player navigates the town of Rainbow Bay - the most dog friendly place to live! - as a preset male or female avatar whose name you decide. I chose to be boring and give my avatar my own name which lead to a few uncomfortable instances of characters making flirty comments at "Hope Eliza"... The game begins with your character moving into Rainbow Bay, signing up to a dating app and deciding to adopt a dog before they've even unpacked, talk about cutting to the chase! The player can then decide to rehome 1 out of 4 of the dogs on offer; all of which have the best names I've ever seen. I didn't plan to go for the mascot of the game but ended up adopting Cheeseball, the Shiba Inu. Your Best Friend Forever journey can now begin as you meet the locals, go on a few dates with fellow dog lovers and attend local events to help get your dog photography business off the ground.
This point and click visual novel? I guess? Was really pretty, a little inappropriate at times and referenced tonnes of real world trends and memes. The game is very self aware and very current, which I feel can come across extremely cheesy (how do you do, fellow kids? style) or very smart. Best Friend Forever falls somewhere in between with references to Tinder (the dating app in game is called Woofr) Uber (which is something like Awoober in game) and Starbucks' puppuccino making constant appearances. The gameplay is primarily sifting through text and dialogue options with some quick-time events occurring in the form of your dog misbehaving or needing attention. When this happens, your dog - who is located on screen 90% of the time - will need correcting or comforting by pulling them in the right direction, petting them and even picking up their poop! This element of the game was a novelty when I first played it however became a little frustrating on Switch as the mouse/Joycon set up didn't flow as well as I imagine it does on PC. There is a time limit on how quickly you must interact with your dog and if my cursor is all the way on the other side of the screen, it was difficult to get it in the right place in time. This often lead to poop not being picked up and residents being growled at.
Although everything is presented in adorable pastel colours and soft shapes, I found the menus in game to be a little overwhelming and I wasn't always 100% sure why I was being presented with them. The game's story runs for 15 weeks and at the start of each week, players must plan a schedule for you and your pup which consists of bonding activities and things to do to boost your dog's stats. I loved this idea until I realised that I didn't actually get to do those things with my dog, just get a description of how it went in the same menu display. This meant that speeding through the weeks was easy as I just loaded up things to do each day and clicked until the week was over. Making this game pretty short. Aside from the weekly planning you also get a chance to explore Rainbow Bay via points on a map and make connections with people as you go. There is a limit on how many things you can do in a day before your dog gets restless though which meant I was only able to have 3-4 interactions each day and if you kept interacting with the same characters, you kind of never get to find out anyone else's story. At the end of each day, you get a short session to tend to your dog too. This again is limited to only 3 interactions, so if you wanted to wash, dry and feed your dog - you better hope they aren't thirsty because they're going to have to wait until the next day to receive water! Which if you're a perfectionist like me, became a little frustrating. These interactions are also timed so rather than being a nice relaxing experience where you can pamper and care for your dog, it became a bit more tense. Well, as tense as a dog, dating simulator can get!
Lastly, the cast of character's available to socialise with in game - although incredibly diverse and beautifully illustrated - felt a little gimmicky at times. With many of their more prominent traits making up a large percentage of the conversations you had with them. I chose to date Felix in my game and every conversation I had with him revolved around true crime, the X-Files (or the game's own version of the X-Files) and how buff he was. It made interactions with the characters kind of bland and although I was engrossed in some of the conversation, it made me not want to bother to chat with many other characters. At the end of the game, a significant event happens which I believed would lead to the climax of the game. Instead, it kind of fizzled out only to get a brief mention at the end. You also don't progress with any of the characters you decide to go on a date with, you just continue to meet up and discuss the same basic topics which made the ending to this game a little underwhelming.
Despite all the negative points I have made about this game, I did enjoy playing it. I feel that it would have played better if I had gotten it on PC instead of Nintendo Switch however don't regret the £15 purchase (which might be a little steep for only 2 or more hours of basic gameplay) as I am always up for supporting an independent game studio. I love the game's art style and overall premise, for those of you who play a lot of dating sim games, it's probably the perfect title for you! I just feel that I was incited in with the dogs and wonderful visuals that I didn't consider all the menus and dialogue present in the game. I look forward to seeing what the game's developer Starcolt have in store for the future and hope that I can be reunited with Cheeseball again one day! Just in a different game...
Best Friend Forever is now available on the Nintendo Switch and PC.
For more cute dog content from me see what else I've posted right here on Nerd Out Word Out, as well as on my own blog hopeelizab.co.uk.