Alec Barkwin will try to fight you
This is an odd one for me. I’ve been looking forward to playing Pupperazzi for the better part of three years, ever since we first reported on the game B.C.—before COVID. The idea of exploring a handful of bright and colorful locations, taking pictures of adorable dogs as they hipped and hopped around seemed like it would be the perfect way to get a quick fix of instant joy I often need after a long day of working in public communications.
And it really is. I can’t help but put a smile on my face as I dress up the dogs for a little photo ses’. But that smile lasts for about 10 minutes at max before it slowly transforms into a look of abject terror as I can feel myself about to vomit like I just shotgunned an entire bottle of maple syrup.
Motion sickness from a video game. This is a brand new experience for me. I cannot recall any of the hundreds of games I’ve played in my life, of all different genres, making me feel the way I do after spending less than a dozen minutes trying to line up the perfect shot of a dog on a Vespa. It’s baffling, really, because it’s only this game. The first day after I started to feel queasy, I shut it off and switched over to Halo Infinite and felt perfectly fine playing that for almost two hours straight. The same rang true when jumping over to The Forgotten City or trying out the first-person view in Forza Horizon 5.
I’m absolutely befuddled because I generally don’t have motion sickness problems. The only time I feel queasy from movement is when I ride a particularly fast roller coaster with a lot of sharp turns, like the Woodstock Express at California’s Great America. I’m perfectly fine with tilt-o-whirls or teacups or the various Disk’O rides you’ll find at this nation’s various theme parks, not to mention all movies (though I may have to watch Hardcore Henry to see if that’s still the case). But for whatever reason, my stomach can’t stomach exploring a canine arcade or a doggy dance party in the park.
And all of this is a real shame because when it’s not making me feel like I just ate some gas station caviar, I genuinely do enjoy playing Pupperazzi. The art direction here is adorable, the limited animation of the dogs only adds to its precociousness, and while there aren’t that many different areas to explore, the game will unlock different times of day and weather for each locale that switches up the aesthetic. Plus, there are so many different items you can use to elicit unique reactions out of the dogs, like the music box that’ll put them to sleep or the robot vacuum that’ll terrify them. Experimentation is half the fun here.
If I were actually reviewing this game, I’d mention the developer should fix the pretty terrible menu system and find a way to make switching out lenses and film types easier. But in order to review it, I would have to beat it first, and if I play this game for another 10 minutes, I’m going to lose my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even with the optional settings in the menu to reduce motion sickness, such as slowing down the cursor speed and limiting movement when in photo mode, I just can’t.
I don’t know what it is. There are no framerate problems to speak of and this isn’t a “shaky-cam” game like Gears of War. Sure, the camera movement isn’t as smooth as its big-budget, AAA brethren, but I’ve played similar first-person games in the past with nary an issue. I guess Pupperazzi is like an organ transplant from an incompatible donor: no matter how much I want it, my body is going to reject it. If you believe your stomach is more steeled than mine, Pupperazzi launches today for PC, Mac, and Xbox. It is also available as part of Xbox Game Pass.
[This impressions piece is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]