Touch Pets: Dogs Impressions: Sounds A Lot Dirtier Than It Feels

I'm no stranger to pet sims, but I'm not sure if I get the point of them. It's a virtual pet that has the ability to guilt you if you neglect it.

Touch Pets: Dogs for the iPhone is no exception, though it does add a few more features. Players adopt a virtual dog and are responsible for feeding it, giving water, playing with it and of course petting it with virtual representations of actual strokes and pats. Touch Pets gets this done a lot better than other handheld consoles I've played pet sims on – but it still confuses me the same as any other pet sim.

I mean, how is a fake pet game fun? You can't really "win" a pet sim, after all. You can just please a fake pet and only for a little while. Eventually, you put the game down or turn off your portable gaming console to get on with your life. And when you go back to it – if you go back – there your virtual pet is, covered in fleas and totally depressed, chiding you with its virtual misery.

I just don't get it. If you don't want or can't have a real pet, why not get a stuffed animal or a painting – something that won't guilt you but at the same time give you something to touch or look at when you find yourself pining for a fluffy companion.

Touch Pets: Dogs Impressions: Sounds A Lot Dirtier Than It Feels

But I digress. Touch Pets: Dogs tries to distance itself from this cycle of neglect and virtual guilt by giving you more things to do with your fake pet than just fake pet it. For example, there's an economy in the game where the happier your pet is, the more Puppy Points you earn. These can be spent on outfits for your fake dog (which no real dog would ever let you dress him or her in) and on better products or toys to entertain them with.

The big ticket difference, though, is the pet career path Touch Pets incorporates into gameplay. Based on how well you train your pet with different tricks or behaviors (like chasing a ball), you can get them jobs that no real dog would ever have – like "scientist." If your dog does at his or her job, more items become available for Puppy Point spending and sometimes they get job-specific stuff like hats or badges.

It's all very role-playing sim, actually, which to me is more satisfying as far as handheld games go. I like to feel like I'm making progress with a character, instead of feeling constantly guilty and neglectful and the job system in Touch Pets creates that. Also, it does something for my constant guilt problem: if my dog is a super scientist, maybe he doesn't need me to fling a Frisbee around as much, right?

I'm told Touch Pets is already on the iPhone, (Ed's note: Not quite out, but out soon.)but I believe developer ngmoco is rolling out some new social networking components to the game. For example, you can now care for another player's pet if you're on their friends list, and your pets' progress can be published on your Facebook page. Check it out if you can stand all that virtual guilt.