SNES A Day 205: Family Dog

Approximate Release Month: June 1993
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Absolute Entertainment
Publisher: Malibu Games

Family Dog isn’t as by-the-numbers as you might expect from a platformer based on a failed TV show, but inconsistent and imprecise controls make it impossible to enjoy.

When I say inconsistent, I mean that literally. Family Dog eats button inputs much like a family dog might eat a beloved slipper. Press B or A to jump and the dog you control will probably jump. Hold down right on the D-pad and it will probably run to the right. But sometimes the dog won’t jump, and sometimes it will stop moving even with the button pressed down.

Even when the controls work, they don’t feel good. The dog’s jump is unlike any I’ve seen in a platformer. Most platformers let you run to get extra height and distance with your jump. Family Dog doesn’t: a running horizontal jump and a standing horizontal jump are pretty much the same. If you want extra height, the game expects you to come to a full stop, hold up on the D-pad, and then jump. It doesn’t feel right.

There are only three short worlds in Family Dog: the house, the pound, and the woods. The house is a predictable left-to-right affair where you avoid cats and other household terrors. There’s a lot of verticality in these house levels that you can ignore if you want. If you want to get ammo for your bark attack for later, stock up now. There are also items you can find that let you play fetch minigames with the family’s son, but I’m not sure what you get out of it other than points. Once you reach the end of this part of the game, the family sends you to the pound.

Excuse me? The rest of Family Dog is the dog trying to get home. I don’t understand why the dog wants to get back to those jerks. It wasn’t a mistake. They put the dog in the car and drove it there!

Anyway, the second world has you escape from captivity. This is a more open area filled with some very light exploration and puzzle-solving. You rescue birds from cages who then flip switches or break windows for you to continue further into the level. It is a pleasant change of pace from the first level, but once you break out the game has you do more bad platforming. It’s not clear where to go, and it’s frustrating to play because of the bad controls. The final world, the woods outside the pound, reuses this open environment idea to have you bounce on tree limbs to find your way back home. At least the developers set up arrows to point you in the right direction.

Family Dog is a poor game that only has three levels but enough new ideas for barely one. Part of me wants to knock the game for being so short, but I don’t want to play more. Maybe it’s the perfect length?

Next week: Top-down racing returns to the Super Nintendo in Kawasaki Caribbean Challenge!

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