There are some games whose appeal is hard to explain, at least at first. “See, you’re in a post-apocalyptic, horrible world and there’s a plague of man-rats, and you’re an outcast wood elf who…” tends to lose at least a good percentage of innocent bystanders who might really enjoy the game once they got into it. But some have a really solid elevator pitch that makes everyone want to play them. “You’re a photographer and you have to go around taking pictures of cute dogs in fun environments.”
Twist my arm.
That’s the premise of Pupperazzi, which, owing to its adorable title, honestly didn’t even need the elevator pitch to make me want to play it. But I’ve been burned before, as a lot of games with a super adorable premise rest on that alone and end up being a buggy nightmare with atrocious gameplay.
Pupperazzi is about as simple as it sounds. You’re a photographer (well, actually, you’re a walking talking camera with arms and legs) whose sole purpose in life is to take photos of dogs while amassing a healthy social media following on dognet for your work.
There’s a brief tutorial thanks to a cute little doggo in a raincoat and wellies who owns the seaside shop in the starting area, but even for a fairly simple concept like taking photos and posting them, it’s a little light. Still, I was able to grasp the basic photo taking, crouching and locomotion fairly quickly and then, after a little digging, get started on my first objectives.
What’s immediately nice about Pupperazzi is that the main mechanic of the game, taking pictures, feels good and works quickly. Snapping a photo with your…self, I guess, only takes a moment, and unlike photo modes in even some AAA games, it sets up quick enough that you won’t feel like you can’t capture quick action, like two adorable beagles fighting over a stick. You can take photos quickly and easily, and the only wait is for the image to show up on your screen. Pretty nice.
One thing I didn’t like about the game’s core photo mechanics was the “film.” You only have so many shots in an area per day, and you sometimes need to recycle shots to be able to do new quests if you’ve snapped one too many impromptu puppy shots along the way. You can save favorites and then recycle them, so it doesn’t permanently affect you, but it’s tedious and unnecessary inventory management that distracts from the fun.
Most of the meat of the game is in photo assignments. Take a photo of a dog on a boat, take a black and white portrait of a shy dalmatian, etc. You can use items to change a dog’s mood, and yes, of course, you can pet them all.
Quests turn in within the UI once completed, so you don’t need to travel anywhere once you’ve got the shot. That said, there is a home base, and some optional questing you can do, like finishing out the Puppypedia by making sure to photograph dogs of all breeds, in all moods and with all the random outfits possible.
There’s even a little bit of platforming, with the world you and the dogs inhabit littered with side quests, Bonk, the game’s currency, and other special items that add to the fun, like a robotic vacuum to frighten dogs, a violin to make them sad, and a froyo treat that makes them hop. Anything to get the shot, right?
As you progress through the game, your quests get more complex, and the environments offer new challenges and additions. As you collect Bonks, you’ll also get the opportunity to purchase new photo equipment, like special filters and film as well as different lenses, including a fisheye, zoom lens, and pixel lens that renders every shot in a pixel art fashion. This adds so many possibilities to shots, and thankfully, whether you get the shot in crazy rainbow colors using a fisheye or on a standard zoom with regular film, it counts for the quest unless otherwise specified, which means you can have a lot of fun being creative. There’s even a film shuffler option, which changes the film for every shot you take.
The second piece of the Pupperazzi puzzle involves social media. You’ll need to share shots to dognet in order to get a following as an artist, and that follower number becomes important so you can open up new areas and get new abilities and items. Each area you visit starts a new day or time of day, which gives you your shots back and lets you post more, something I only learned after my photo posting got out of hand at the lighthouse and people started commenting that I should stop spamming. Though the trolls are fake, they’re savage, and you’ll gain followers faster if you mind your p’s and q’s. The game doesn’t outright tell you how many posts is too many, but once you go over and get your first angry face emoji the first time, you’ll get a feel for it.
As an actual photographer, I appreciated some in-jokes about photography throughout, in addition to the obvious dog humor. I also really had fun with the outfit change mechanic, which lets you walk up to any pup who’s got any sort of outfit and change it as you’d like. There’s also some great touches when it comes to lighting and photography in Pupperazzi, with your progression unlocking different times of day for the different locations you’ll visit, and different weather conditions, which change what types of shots you can get. And while the art style is simple in Pupperazzi, they do a great job with it, and adorable dogs aside, the backdrops are fun and colorful, easily inspiring you to get creative with your shots.
Overall, I had a pretty great time with Pupperazzi. I did experience one or two small bugs and one major crash, but I didn’t lose too much progress and was having a lot of fun playing with different times of day and different setups for pupper shots, so it didn’t seem like much of a setback. In short, it delivered on its promise. I had a great time taking cute and colorful pictures of dogs and sort of “catching them all.” And other than the obvious body horror of being a living, breathing camera wandering a strange dog and robot inhabited world, I was into it. It scratched my everpresent photography itch and gave me plenty of adorableness to lighten up my day. If anything, I wish there’d been a little more narrative to the game, just to encourage me to play moreonce I accidentally found the end before even exploring Mellowstone, but ultimately, it doesn’t need it. Pupperazzi knows what we’re here for: amazing photo opps of cute doggos who are the bestest bois and girls, and a little bit of social media fawning. And that’s exactly what we got.
A Steam key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.