Pony Friends Impressions
Eidos saddles up and shows off its upcoming virtual-pet game for the DS.
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Earlier this week, during a visit to Eidos' new Redwood City office, we had an opportunity to check out Pony Friends on the DS for the first time. The virtual-pet game can most easily be compared to Nintendogs, although there are obviously a lot of things you can do with a pony that you can't with a puppy, and vice versa.
Like Nintendogs, Pony Friends will let you choose one of several real-life breeds for your new pet, and those of you who don't know a Camargue from a fjord will also have the option to design your own pony from scratch. Options when creating a custom pony include various combinations of colors, patterns, and markings that can be applied to the body, face, and legs, as well as different tail lengths. Every pony you adopt (you can have up to three at any one time) will also need a name, a gender, a birthday, and a favorite food.
Once you've settled on all of those things there are plenty of activities that you can enjoy with your new friend, but you'll also need to care for him or her in much the same way you would a real pony. That means brushing, shampooing, conditioning, rinsing, removing mud and stones from hooves, and treating illnesses--all of which are achieved via simple stylus-driven minigames. As you progress through the game with up to three ponies in your stable, you'll earn the right to customize your friends further with unlockable saddles, blankets, horseshoes, bridles, ribbons, and the like.
With your ride fully tricked out, you'll be ready to hit the trails. Pony Friends will feature several environments for you to explore on trail rides, including forests, beaches, marshes, cliff tops, and a marina. Your route through these locales will be linear, but you'll be able to control your mount's speed and unlock new trails simply by looking around and spotting the gates that lead to them. In addition, you'll be armed with a camera anytime you go on a trail ride, and there are more than 100 different animals, birds, and flowers waiting to be photographed and added to your virtual scrapbook. Assuming that you're the kind of owner who takes good care of your pony, you'll also be able to amass small collections of coins and shells by picking them out of its hooves after completing a trail ride.
Other activities you can enjoy with your pony will include teaching them tricks and entering them into competitions that test their speed and fitness, as well as your own sense of style. The only competition we got to see on this occasion was a race against other ponies, in which the DS microphone was used to shout words of encouragement. Your volume will be indicated by a color-coded bar on the touch screen, and the goal is to shout loud enough to make the pony go faster without shouting too loudly and tiring the pony out prematurely.
Based on what we've seen of the game so far, Pony Friends is shaping up to be a decent alternative to Nintendogs. There's no multiplayer support, and your pony won't play fetch with a Frisbee, but there are plenty of activities to keep wannabe equestrians happy, and you don't have to pick up (or shovel) any poop. Pony Friends is currently scheduled for release toward the end of May.