Take a hike, Tails. Get lost, Luigi. Screw you, Morrigan (you did already? my mistake). Who needs companions to watch your back in-game when you can have pets? They’re loyal, don’t talk back (most of the time) and you tend to feel a little less bad when their AI does something stupid because they usually have at least some redeeming features, even it’s just their adorable idle animation (SILENCE, I HAVE NO FEELINGS).
Without further ado let’s take a look at some of video gaming’s best pets…
1. Dogmeat (the Fallout series)
Named after the dog in Mad Max 2 (and in fact also the same breed, an Australian cattle dog), Dogmeat is a faithful and surprisingly robust companion. With a penchant for free food and leather jackets (another reference to the film), Dogmeat has decent hit points and can potentially do quite a lot of damage to enemies with his bites. His latest incarnation in Fallout 3 has been said by the developers to be a descendent of the original, distracting your foes by selflessly throwing himself at them (you need to make sure he doesn’t get himself killed this way) and finding you useful items (thus predating the dog in Fable 2’s condom-hunting antics); he even seems to be mysteriously capable of lockpicking somehow, the wily mutt. Fallout 2 also features robotic dogs, the most notable of these being K-9 (who you fix and rescue from his dastardly doctor master), while Fallout: New Vegas features an awesome-looking cyborg dog known as Cyber-Hound Mk. III, LEO Support Model, Serial Number B955883 (or Rex for short).
2. Agro (Shadow of the Colossus)
Your only companion in a vast and lonely world, Agro is vital for not only transport but also for defeating some of the giant colossi you encounter. Agro himself is massive (seriously, he has to be at least five times your size) and beautifully animated, with little touches such as his panting and snorting really bringing him to life (he even runs away if you happen to be aiming a little too much in his direction with your bow). You can also perform tricks while riding him (provided you don’t plunge off a cliff in the process… not that he’ll let you), and if he gets injured in any number of seemingly life threatening ways he hobbles determinedly after you (a pretty heart
wrenching sight in itself) before quickly recovering. The horse is badass, and I think everyone feels the same way about a certain incident involving him towards the end of the game.
3. Lamarr (Half-Life 2)
Somewhat unconventional pet of Dr Isaac Kleiner, Lamarr (named after 1930s film star and inventor Hedy Lamarr) is a debeaked headcrab who is still quite happy to attempt to “couple” with human heads despite this effective neutering (much to Barney’s chagrin). Last seen seemingly being blasted off in a rocket in Episode 2 (Kleiner failing to realise the significance of the eight and half pound anomaly prior to its launch), Lamarr is pretty cute in her own special, head-humping way (hey, at least she wasn’t a poison one). She shall be missed.
4. Dog (Half-Life 2)
Alyx Vance’s 8 foot tall robot companion, originally built by her father Eli to protect her when she was young. Having been repeatedly upgraded over the years (hence his massive size) Dog is unquestioningly loyal and impressively strong, his most notable feats including lifting Combine Mobile Walls, hurling Alyx and Gordon across a ravine in a burnt out van and singlehandedly defeating a Strider by ripping out its brain (this accompanied by much goo). However, he also has a softer side, and it’s hard not to feel some form of affection for him and his shambling gait (which, admittedly, is chillingly similar to that of the Tank from Left 4 Dead) and penchant for playing fetch with rollermines.
5. Weighted Companion Cube (Portal)
Perhaps only a pet in a rather loose sense of the word, but certainly one insofar as you have to take care of it (GLaDOS does tell you to). Despite its relatively brief appearance in Test Chamber 17, the Weighted Companion Cube is arguably Portal’s most iconic gift to popular culture. With its familiar chunky shape and pretty pink hearts, its distinctive appearance has been replicated in everything from plush toys to cakes. Heck, in game there is even a shrine to it apparently made by previous a test subject (or subjects?). However, your relationship is short and sweet; GLaDOS instructs you to euthanize your faithful companion in the Emergency Intelligence Incinerator after it accompanies you to the end of the test chamber. This mechanically unavoidable action comes back to haunt you in the end as GLaDOS informs you of a party you could have had had you “succeeded”, ruefully stating: “I invited your best friend the Companion Cube. Of course, he couldn’t come because you murdered him.”
6. Puma (Gitaroo Man)
A tiny talking dog who bears more than a passing resemblance to Snoopy (and none at all to the animal that shares his name), Puma is responsible for giving the game’s weedy protagonist the last Gitaroo (essentially a magical weaponised electric guitar), thus transforming him into the titular hero. Puma himself transforms into AC-30 (named after a guitar amplifier), a canine robot with a boombox for a body and tiny dead cars for feet (no, really). He’s a pretty awesome sidekick, who teaches his owner to believe in himself as well as saving his ass a couple of times. He can also pilot a spaceship. Let’s face it, the dog’s got skills.
7. Yoshi (the Super Mario series)
Starting out as Mario’s trusty steed and going on to have his own spinoff games, Yoshi the boot wearing dinosaur’s most well known ability is probably using his long tongue to grab and swallow enemies before somehow turning them into eggs… despite being male; apparently all of his species lay eggs regardless of gender. Different coloured Yoshis can do different things, such as blue ones flying or red ones spitting fireballs. Curiously Yoshi is often paired off with Birdo (I’m not even going to go there) in the Mario universe, which means that they have more than enough gender issues between them go round. Also EGGS SHOULD NEVER COME OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.
8. The creature (the Black and White series)
Upon you receiving your creature in both games you were actually given a fair amount of choice of type (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!), but perhaps the most infamous of these was the cow (not the most impressive or regal creature to be your representative on earth, but I digress). In the first game you had to painstakingly teach your creature its abilities one by one (it tended to have a terrible attention span) while in the second you simply purchased them. The creature was (hopefully) a reflection of your own morals as a god, but even a goody-two-paws tended to have “accidents” such as kicking down a house because it couldn’t fit past it or eating its own poop before promptly throwing up over the nearest villager (which they then might decide to eat). Not the brightest button in the box but pretty useful in a battle; some of its fighting (and dancing) moves were pretty cool if nothing else.
9. Hunter pets (World of Warcraft)
Without a pet as a hunter you’re not going to get very far, so spending that 20 seconds taming your first one at level 10 is always a special moment. Vital for drawing aggro off yourself so you can fill your foes full of arrows (or bullets, if you swing that way), your pet is there to tank and deal damage while you finish the job from a distance (unless you’re one of those hunters who insist on getting in on the action; if so WHY?!). Not especially endearing due to their lack of distinguishing features AI-wise, a lot of the affection garnered for them comes from their species or name (a giant crab called Fluffy is kind of amusing). Trolls are clearly the superior hunter (and overall) race, by the way.
10. The Sims (The Sims series)
When do pets become people and people become pets? Somewhere between a virtual pet and a simulation, The Sims arrived on the scene in the year 2000, and for a while people were ignorant of the fact that they were in fact simply playing with a highly elaborate dolls house. Certainly an innovative creation, Maxis proceeded to bring out a load of highly successful expansion packs, providing your creations with even more stuff to waste their hard-earned simoleons on (klapaucius, you say?). However, it was only a matter of time before players would get bored, and this resulted in the discovery of the various methods of Sim slaying that the series has become infamous for. In The Sims 2 you can even use a cheat to spawn an item called “Rodney’s Death Creator”, which can be used to kill a Sim in any way. Lovely, Maxis.
Ella is intrigued by the announcement of three playable female characters in Gears of War 3, and would like to point out for those interested that preordering it at GameStop will net you a Beta access key. You want a shiny Beta Tester medal (and exclusive in game items), don’t you?