Developed by Sundae Month and published by Kitfox Games, Pupperazzi is a short and casual dog photography game. This indie title was released for the PC (Windows and macOS), Xbox One, and Xbox series X|S on 20 January 2022 and more recently, for the Nintendo Switch on 6 April 2023. Amid the freely explorable areas filled with all kinds of cute, innocent, and derpy puppers big and small, how dreamy is Pupperazzi really?
For this review, the PC version (Pupperazzi_2/22/2022_r2_win_steam) was played with a keyboard and mouse.
The Camera who has an Eye for Dogs
In Pupperazzi, you play as a nameless pupperazzo who is a giant camera with two long limbs (I say “limbs” because they appear as legs most of the time but as hands for some situations). There is no grand introduction or any epic story to follow. Upon setting foot in Lighthouse Cove, the first area in the game, you are quickly tasked with taking photographs of the dogs residing there. Soon after completing your tutorial objectives, you are told to gain more followers for your account on the in-game social media site known as dogNET. From there on, it is just a matter of checking out the new objectives that pop up and completing them to unlock progression for the game.
Kickstarting Your Career Through Objectives
The objectives in Pupperazzi are typically assigned by a group of recurring characters — or your clients, in a sense — and consist of mainly custom photography jobs, the occasional miscellaneous non-photography tasks, and a handful of milestones for your dogNET account. None of the objectives have a time limit.
A completed objective will more often than not earn you some dogNET followers as well as Bonks, the in-game currency in the form of a golden bone which you can spend on nifty upgrades for your camera lens and film. Certain objectives give special rewards too, such as expanding the catalog of the upgrades you can buy from the Shop or Vending Machines, and unlocking a new area on the map.
On the whole, the objectives are designed with much creativity and purpose. Every client who seeks your services has their own quirks that influence the kind of request they give. For instance, Danger Dalmatian is concerned with public safety and sometimes sends out requests wherein you have to gather photographic evidence proving the specified place has no safety issues. Most clients also have a series of requests that can be strung into a brief narrative of who they are. Unfortunately, since they cannot be further interacted with outside the few curt objectives they posted, these clients are generally not memorable even though some of their requests stood out due to their eccentric nature.
Nevertheless, I appreciate how the objectives effectively prod players into exploring various aspects of Pupperazzi more. Some objectives are hidden within the different areas as floating green envelopes, which inevitably encourages players to take a closer look at the environment, study its every nook and cranny, and figure out how to reach those envelopes. I especially enjoyed hunting for the ones hidden within Muttropolis, a city with plenty of tall buildings and trees I can jump and climb to get a nice bird’s-eye view of the vicinity. Furthermore, some objectives require players to use certain types of camera lenses or film, many of which I would not have tried of my own accord simply because I tend to stick with what I like most. A small portion of the objectives also lead players towards discovering some easily overlooked secrets about the current area!
As much as I like the way the objectives are designed, including the satisfying closure elicited by a request for the final area that ties wonderfully back to the first requests of Pupperazzi, I find their implementation to be confusing and even frustrating at times. One gripe I have is the lack of a system to check if you already have access to certain upgrades before it assigns you objectives that require those said upgrades. As a result of receiving such an objective that was in fact impossible for me to complete at that moment, I wasted time running around, futilely trying to find the upgrade needed for the request.
Furthermore, some requests are quite tricky and there are no extra hints provided. I recall there is one objective that requires a pail, but the search for this pail had me running around sillily like a dog with a pail covering its head. For another objective, I was supposed to investigate a strange presence in the forest but I always returned empty-handed after combing through the place multiple times. Luckily for me, my totally irrelevant close-up photo of a dog standing next to a campfire was marked as a valid “strange presence”, so I submitted that photo to quickly close this head-scratching case. Evidently, Pupperazzi’s object recognition misses the mark wildly sometimes, but I cannot decide whether this inaccuracy is a blessing or a curse. On the one hand, it allowed me to turn in requests I would otherwise spend too much time agonizing over, yet on the other hand, it prevented me from properly finding out what the game actually wanted to show me.
Unlocking and Upgrading Your Way to Become a Pro
When you first start out on your dog photography journey in Pupperazzi, you will find yourself with just the starter camera lens and basic color film. In addition, you can take up to 9 images in one go before you have to manually recycle one or more of them to free up the roll film for your next photograph, or leave the area to reset your roll film. As you continue to complete objectives from various clients, however, you will eventually have access to 7 more camera lenses and 28 more different films. At one point, you can also increase your roll film’s capacity to hold a maximum of 15 images. On top of that, you can unlock the Selfie Mode, a Mini UFO drone, and a Flashbulb for your camera. Some of these upgrades are given as rewards upon completing specific objectives, while most of them are available for purchase using Bonks once you have unlocked the corresponding Shop catalogs.
Delivering a fair range of photography tools at your disposal and allowing you to freely mix and match them, Pupperazzi is certainly well prepared to support your artistic endeavors throughout your pupperazzo career. I find it fun to experiment with the different lenses and films obtained, and I was most delighted by the visual output when I paired the Flare lens with the filtered Black & White film. As mentioned before though, I find myself always picking the same old one or two camera lenses and film packs I really liked to use. If not for a series of objectives involving the Pixel lens, I would have ignored that camera lens because its visual effect made me feel as though my myopia worsened. In addition, I could not stand the Rainbow film whose color scheme turned everything into a glaring, high-saturation infrared image.
Other camera tools I was not inclined to use are the Selfie Mode, Mini UFO drone, and Flashbulb. Although I like taking pictures where the pupperazzo is included, the Selfie Mode’s inverted movement controls always threw me off. The Mini UFO drone is slightly complicated to use too, and it took me a while to realize I should use the Selfie Mode to position the pupperazzo’s face first before sending out the drone. Otherwise, the giant camera character will likely be looking down at the floor when the drone is deployed. As for the Flashbulb, it is only good for pranking the dogs because the resulting photographs are overexposed where everything lit by the flash becomes snow white.
Don’t Forget to Play with the Dogs
In Pupperazzi, besides taking numerous photographs of cute dogs, you get to interact with your lovely models too. The first interaction you will unlock is petting the dog, where you will stretch your long hand to gently rub your target’s head (or face, or torso, or butt) and cast an enchantment spell on them. Okay, the latter part is my imaginative headcanon, but the observable effects are undeniable: a string of big hearts pop out of them as they look at you with their spellbound puppy eyes, all gooey and happy while sticking their tongue out and wagging their tail. So long as your enchantment lasts, those who are not stationed at a fixed place will try to follow you wherever you go. Besides letting you experience the thrill of having a pack of adorable dogs running after you (fancy that, a pupperazzo hounded by pupperazzi!), this interaction enables you to personally guide your models to the spot where you want them to be for your photoshoot. It is a helpful function but is unfortunately not entirely practical.
On the technical side, the dogs’ behavior is buggy from time to time, and some would randomly refuse to follow you no matter how many times or how long you pet them. Next, for the enamored dogs who do follow you, they will usually tail you so closely, it becomes difficult to take a decent photo of them with the normal photo-taking mode. Whenever you try to gain some distance from them, they will sprint forth and frequently end up bumping against your camera lens. You can wait for the dog’s enchanted state to wear off before stepping away from them, but even then, if you are not using the Slow-Mo lens that can slow down the flow of time significantly, you have just a short window to take your desired photograph before your models would get about their business once more. One last thing, the animated hearts are also captured on film when they were within frame, which can be undesirable if they happened to be blocking another dog’s face or landmarks in the scene.
Another kind of interaction you can have with the dogs is facilitated by various items that, like the hidden objectives, are hidden within the different areas. There are a total of 15 unique items you can find, and once an item is unlocked, you can freely dispense it from the Vending Machine at any time. The first few items found in Pupperazzi allow you to play fetch with the dogs, though the game does not provide an intuitive way to gauge how far your throws will go; more than once, the tree branch flew further than I expected and landed in the waters where the dogs cannot swim across, so I ended up having to fetch the tree branch by myself.
As you head into more areas, you can find other entertaining items, like a boombox that transforms the immediate surroundings into a dancing dogs’ domain, a violin you can play to make the dog sad, and a robot vacuum you can switch on to frighten the dogs. Regular food items, e.g. bananas and hamburgers, can also be found, though to my dismay, they were not added to the Vending Machine’s inventory.
Items are not the only channel through which you can have fun with the dogs in Pupperazzi. Once your dogNET account hits 55 followers, you will be able to dress up any and every dog you come across. Under the minimalistic dress-up interface, you can add, change, or remove the selected dog’s outfit, hat, glasses, collar, and shoes. The clothing selections are roughly the same for all the dogs and the wardrobe is generally small, with three kinds of shoes and four pairs of glasses available for example, so I got bored of dressing up the dogs quite quickly. Some dogs actually have a slight variant of certain clothing articles, such as a bird perched atop the nose instead of the head, or a pair of glasses worn in a slightly slanted way. However, there is no obvious indication which dog has the uncommon clothing variants, and it would be a chore to dress every single dog up just to uncover these minute cosmetic surprises.
A Home of Memories and Knowledge
Working as a pro in Pupperazzi, you have access to two special screens via Home on the map. First is the Gallery, a photo album where all the photographs you have saved to favorites will be displayed in reverse chronological order. It is nice for whenever you want to take a nostalgic look back on your professional journey. Sadly, you do not get to organize your photographs under the Gallery. You can neither delete those you do not want anymore nor manually arrange them to your liking. For me, the former limitation is more disagreeable as there were photographs taken for some objectives that I had not intended to save to the Gallery, yet the game went ahead to save it to favorites on my behalf anyway.
The second special screen you can access is the Puppypedia, a glossary about the dogs seen in Pupperazzi. The empty image boxes on its pages are automatically filled in whenever there are suitable photos present on your roll film after you leave an area. For instance, if your roll film has an image of a pug upon leaving an area, it would be entered into the Puppypedia under its entry for pugs. Note that the game’s object recognition is as unreliable here as it is for the aforementioned Objectives system, so you are likely to find your photo of, say, a not-bulldog being placed under the entry for a bulldog. Thankfully, Puppypedia lets you choose a new photo to replace the current one, so you can flaunt your professor-level knowledge of dogs by correcting the mistakes made by the AI. However, the selection pool of replacement photos is also curated by the same object recognition algorithm, and it curates from the latest images on your current roll film rather than the existing photos under your Gallery.
Your Whole World, Surrounded by Dogs
There are a total of five areas to visit in Pupperazzi, and four of them have morning, noon, evening, and night variants. At first, you can only visit the noontime version of most areas, but as you progress forth, the other time variants will be gradually made available as well. Other than the most obvious changes to the sky, each area has some objectives that are available at specific time slots, and some local activities that change slightly depending on the time of the day. Only in the morning version of Buppy Boardwalk, for example, can you find dogs who are fishing. Nonetheless, the differences in terms of the groups of dogs present and the activities they engage in are relatively small. Because of that, I was not enticed to visit the same area for all its four time variants.
That said, I admire the range of unique sceneries found across the five areas, which is already apparent even without factoring in the minor changes that the different time variants bring. Unlike the first and fifth areas, the other three areas in Pupperazzi are packed with more dogs, environmental objects, and places of interest. Muttropolis is great for parkouring and then spooking myself whenever the pupperazzo loses their floaty footing and free-falls all the way down. Meanwhile, I enjoyed cheering the dogs on as they zealously pounce on the arcade consoles at Buppy Boardwalk, and loved taking a relaxing stroll around the waterfall in Mellowstone. Out of all the areas, I was most let down by Lighthouse Cove due to the presence of a jarring barricaded region, which I excitedly thought would open up later in the game but it never did.
Build a Name for Yourself on dogNET
The final tool of the trade offered by Pupperazzi to help you become a renowned pupperazzo is dogNET, a bare-bones social media environment with a straightforward mechanic. When you check the Photos menu for your roll film’s content after taking a photograph, you will find a “Post to dogNET” button above “Save to Favorites” and “Recycle”. Clicking on the top button will simulate a posting process where you will be shown one to three comments along with the instantaneous effects to your follower count and their satisfaction levels. Don’t worry, your follower count will never decrease, although it is possible for you to gain no new followers from your latest post. Depending on whether your posted photograph meets your followers’ range of preferences, such as to see dressed-up dogs, you can net yourself either none or some bonus followers.
One sure-fire way to gain zero new followers for a photograph is to post it after you have reached your current posting limit, at which point your followers or some rando on dogNET will start accusing you of spamming and essentially ask you to log off and go touch some grass. Personally, I was not amused with this detail implemented for dogNET in Pupperazzi. Truly, how can it be spam when the followers cannot get enough of the cute dogs anyway? Moreover, the posting limit can easily be reset by leaving the area and then re-entering again, thereby rendering its inclusion quite pointless. Perhaps it is meant to subtly nudge players to go explore another area, but the comments continuously screaming about spam emitted such an ungrateful vibe, they dampened my desire to post to dogNET altogether.
Fortunately, I can avoid those weirdly antagonistic comments just by minding the post-limit countdown displayed on the same Photos menu screen. What I cannot avoid are the strange comments accompanying some of the photos I posted to dogNET. One of my images of a lone sleeping dog received a compliment that the group of dogs is having fun, whereas my picture of a group of dogs was criticized for not showing even one dog. It goes without saying, then, that Pupperazzi’s inaccurate object recognition permeates into the dogNET system as well.
Visual and Audio Aspects
Pupperazzi is a low-poly 3D game with an eye-catching color palette as bubbly and comforting as the dogs. Its world is colorful and the chosen color palettes generally enhance each area’s ambiance. As for the main stars of the game, I am impressed with the wonderful attention paid to the dogs’ 3D models, whose physical details from the features to the coat colors match their real-life counterparts’ closely. But I particularly love the goofy touches to the dogs’ eyes, which range from a permanently shocked stare to a tender pleading look.
I also love visiting the nighttime variant of various areas because of the mesmerizing lighting all around as well as the calming starry sky where a beautiful full moon sits. However, it was in the nighttime variant too where I encountered an annoying visual bug: a patch of sand brightly lit by the nearby torches in Buppy Boardwalk would flicker obnoxiously as I moved towards or away from it. Other visual bugs I have often come across while playing Pupperazzi are milder, such as the dogs hovering above the ground, objects clipping through the dogs and vice versa, and the dogs’ digging animation never getting played despite having thrown them a dog bone to bury.
On the audio side, the work is remarkable — nothing sounded out of place, the dog barks were not grating, and there was no unexpected silence. Pupperazzi made great use of sound effects in creating a fitting ambient for each of its five areas, like the gentle waves of the sea at the beach. Appropriate sound effects were also used as audio cues for the user interface, including the unmistakable camera shutter sound every time you snapped a picture.
Not to mention, the original soundtrack by Jack Yeates (blueskybleu) has been a delightful, relaxing accompaniment to my sightseeing and photography activities throughout the game. To my amazement, each area has its own set of theme music that changes according to the four time variants. Overall, the 20 background music tracks have consistently strong rhythms, which pull the main tunes into graceful and unhurried movements altering between lighter bobs and heavier sweeps. My favorite tracks include the magical “Howling at the Moon” with its enthrallingly ethereal harp portions, the mysterious “Hounds in the Mist” whose repeating musical notes sound like they were circling upwards and evaporating into thin air, and the lonely “I Think Dogs Should Be Able To Float” that feels happily content yet wistfully sad at the same time.
Content Rating and Accessibility Aspects
Pupperazzi has an ESRB rating of Everyone, with a content descriptor of alcohol reference. Its interface and texts are available in 9 languages, namely English, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese – Brazil, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Turkish, and Traditional Chinese.
There are four sub-menus under the “Options” menu in Pupperazzi:
The “General” sub-menu, where you can select the language, choose whether to let the game auto-detect your gamepad, and change the file size for the photos to be saved to the local disk. You can also alter the field of view via a slider control, and toggle the presence of moving vehicles — bicycles, moped motorcycles, cars, cement mixer trucks, and so on — near the dogs.
The “Controls” sub-menu, where you can change the sensitivity of the camera, invert X and Y axes, and toggle the option of holding the designated button to run. A simplified controls mode is available too, where vertical aiming is limited, and when in camera mode, the player will automatically crouch and stay fixed in position.
The “Graphics” sub-menu, where you can pick the graphics quality (low, medium, best), change the resolution, toggle windowed mode, and toggle advanced motion blur.
The “Audio” sub-menu, where there are individual slider controls for the music volume, sound effects volume, and dog sounds volume respectively.
On PC, Pupperazzi has partial controller support, but I did not have a controller to test it. As stated early on, I played the game using keyboard and mouse controls. The default controls cannot be remapped, and there is no help menu where the control scheme is summarized in words or a diagram. Luckily, the control scheme used here is intuitive for a first-person photography game.
Pupperazzi uses WASD or alternatively, arrow keys for player movement; “Shift” for running; spacebar for jumping; “R” for rotating between landscape and portrait orientations in camera mode; “Ctrl” for crouching in camera mode; “Esc” for the in-game options menu; and “Tab” for pulling up the screen where you can view your photos on the roll film, check your current objectives, change your camera parts, and click on a button to leave the current area. Camera movement is controlled by the mouse, and the secondary mouse button is used for entering or exiting the camera mode. Whilst in camera mode, the primary mouse button is for taking a photograph, and the mouse wheel is for controlling the camera lens’ effects where applicable (e.g. zoom for the Basic Zoom lens).
The only time I was baffled by the game controls was when the main buttons on the user interface do not respond to the “Enter” key and have to be clicked on using the mouse instead. I also found an issue with the hold-to-run function where after toggling it off, the automatic running that should happen did not happen.
In general, Pupperazzi runs pretty smoothly on my laptop. The only time I noticed the game freezing momentarily was when the game was exporting and saving a photo to my laptop. Even so, the occurrence was occasional. Sometimes, I would notice the bicycles and mopeds move in a stuttering manner when everything else in the scene, including camera movement, did not seem any different.
Providing you with sufficient tools and plenty of puppers to play with, Pupperazzi presents a neat little sandbox environment where you can try your hands at dog photography. In my 8-hour stint as a pupperazzo, I played fetch with the dogs, dressed them up in fashionable costumes, and took numerous photographs of them while they danced, cried, or slept. The novelty and fun of various systems and mechanics in place, such as dogNET and the camera lenses and films you can use wore off quickly for me. Yet I find myself not at all opposed to visiting the same few areas again just to watch the dogs do their everyday dog things, be it riding a moped or performing sick stunts on a skateboard. Ultimately, there may not be much fanciful stuff to do or places to explore, but there is much love, joy, and comfort to be found through the pure-hearted dogs, upbeat music, and laid-back atmosphere in Pupperazzi.
PUPPERAZZI IS RECOMMENDED
If you would like to read about Simulation games, you might be interested to read this review of Cat Cafe Manager or Pups & Purrs: Animal Hospital.
Many thanks go to Kitfox Games for a PC review code for this title.
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A person with many hobbies (and even more WIPs), KuroKairin plays, playtests, and reviews PC games. She loves games with good stories that bring her on an emotional and thought-provoking journey. Her favourite genres include otome visual novel, point and click, puzzle, and RPG. Follow her @KuroKairin.