Pupperazzi is a game about taking pictures of dogs. They are, as is traditional, very cute dogs. You go around several areas that increase in complexity and dog saturation, completing photo challenges and unlocking more and more complex areas. An extreme sports dog wants a picture of a dog riding a scooter. The old sea-dog at the beach would like a photo of any dog, as long as the lighthouse is in the background. In return for this you get golden bones as a form of currency to buy different kinds of film, or weird lenses, to kick your photography into the next gear.
It’s cute. It’s a really nice playground that facilitates the player’s own creativity. You can pet dogs to make them happy, or find toys to make them do different things: turn on a radio and any furry pals nearby bust out some truly astonishing moves; throw a stick to initiate a huge game of fetch. You post your photos to a kind of dog-centric Instagram for likes and comments (possibly from dogs; possibly from humans). The colourful, chunky art, combined with deliberately stiff animation where nobody can move their joints, really reminds me of Playmobil toys. Despite this carefree, playful tone, I also find it unaccountably sinister.
I am aware that I find things creepy when they’re not meant to be. This is a me problem. And there are lots of things in Pupperazzi that are genuinely wholesome. But it is the juxtaposition with the wholesome presentation that, perhaps, makes some things seem haunting and strange to me. For example, often you will see dogs with jobs. That’s great! Who doesn’t like dogs with jobs? This one is running a food stand and wearing a little hat. Amazing! Haha, this one is on the till at a shop and – oh. Oh god, the shop just sells piles of giant, huge bones. Did… Did they dig up a dinosaur? Are the dogs eating dinosaurs?
Mainly, though, I get a powerful bang of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds off it. There are just loads of dogs everywhere, which, yeah, is good on paper, but sometimes you walk into an area and they’re all just looking at you. If you get close enough, their heads swivel towards you. It is especially unnerving in the bits where they’re just waiting for you, as a player, to interact with them. Like the children’s playground pictured above, where everything has a load of dogs on it, perched there like so many pigeons about to fuck you up in a phone box. And then, mere yards away, I photographed a sausage dog who was sitting in front of an easel doing a lovely painting. It made me go “Ooh!” out loud. What is this place?
The weirdest moment of all was when I realised that you do not play a photographer in Pupperazzi. Oh no, you play a photography machine. You are a giant camera with noodly arms and legs and robotic hands. A monster. The camera lens is your eye and it looks… organic. Juicy. Is there a brain in there? Is this camerimera a cyborg?
Also the dogs have a king. This is what the king looks like.
Why is he wearing a human-sized crown? Did he kill the previous king? Or is the dog king separate to the human regent? What is going on here?