Forget dogs and cats pushing boxes, flipping switches or tapping on elevator controls: the biggest logical leap in Pets at Work is that the cat and dog are working together. It would never happen.
That being said, in the co-op mode of Pets at Work, the dog can drop boxes on the cat, while the cat can accidentally flip the switch on a fan to send a box flying into a dog. Hell, the cat can sit at an exit that only they can reach, taunting the pup. Perhaps it’s more realistic than we thought.
Pets at Work, if you strip away the cutesy dog and cat, is a pretty simple role-based puzzle-platformer. Lost Vikings (as found in the Blizzard Arcade Collection) is the founder of the genre, but Trine has a fine handle on it too. The two available characters can do different things: the dog is the strongman, able to push boxes about, but sporting a pathetic little jump; the cat, meanwhile, is both nimble enough to jump higher, as well as squeeze into tight-fitting vents.
Those two characters are in play simultaneously, so you are either tapping Y to switch between them in solo, or you are bringing a friend along with you in local play. If you can, we recommend its cooperative joys, mainly as you can taunt each other by not quite sticking to any plans you might have formed.
Levels are simple, one-screen affairs that challenge you to reach an exit door. Most of the time, the cat could get there without any bother, but both of you need to exit for the level to be complete. Obviously, this is an UTTER FANTASY, as the cat would be through that door faster than you could say “bath time?”.
So, the two pets get to work. Blocks are pushed, conveyor belts are activated, vents are navigated and springboards are sprung. The puzzles are never particularly devious – you didn’t expect a game called Pets at Work to be a challenging 100%, did you? – and the worst you can expect is a crushed or trapped doggo, which means a swift press of the Menu button and a restart.
Pets at Work is monumentally inoffensive. The closest it gets to being awkward is that it loves to stack blocks into staircases, but it’s so easy to get the alignment wrong and create a pillar instead, causing your little dog to get stuck. We also found ourselves on the wrong side of staircases. But that’s on us, really, and it’s what puzzle games are about. You imagine a path to a solution and then you execute on it.
But inoffensive is a backhanded compliment, as there’s not much in the way of ambition here either. The thirty-odd levels are over in a few swishes of a cat’s tail; the difficulty never strays far beyond ‘non-existent’; and there’s less replay value than an empty pack of Walkers crisps. The obstacles are all the most well-worn objects in gaming, too. Crates, conveyor belts and switches are one spike-trap away from gaming bingo.
Whether that matters is down to you. Because not every game needs to bake your noodle every thirty seconds, nor do they have to reinvent the world. Sometimes, a simple, slightly familiar game is exactly what the veterinarian ordered. When you pair that up with a tempting and fun cooperative mode, then Pets at Work might just be the ticket.
Pets at Work is a cute, bouncy, lightweight little puzzle game that is hard not to like. It’s a Labrador of a game. There’s nothing unusual about it, as games like it are fairly common. But it is eager to please, with a bopping (but repetitive) little soundtrack, and a range of pet colours to pick from, for the simple reason that we all have our cat and dog colour preferences. You might want to sprinkle around some cat or dog hairs for that authentic experience.
You can buy Pets at Work from the Xbox Store