A Summer with the Shiba Inu review for PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Platform: PS4
Also on: PC, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Quill Game Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

There?s a heck of a lot going on in A Summer with the Shiba Inu. It?s a visual novel that jumps back and forth across decades, with a story involving magical feathers, a massive augmented reality murder simulation, double-crosses, and all kinds of other crazy stuff, and it just keeps piling on more and more the further in you get.

Also, all the characters are dogs.

Part of me wonders if A Summer with the Shiba Inu isn?t just some elaborate excuse to squeeze in as many dog-rated puns as its developers could come up with into a single game . The main character, Syd, has returned to the island of Taipaw after living for many years in Canine-da. All the characters say things like ?For Dog?s sake? and ?dog-darned?. You can earn a trophy called ?Beaglenetta 3?, and the trophy description includes a reference to ?Paw-tal 3?. Point being, you better have a very healthy appetite for dog puns if you wanto to enjoy this game — and even as someone who loves puns, I found them to be a little much.

The thing is, there?s way too much going on in A Summer with the Shiba Inu for it to merely be an in-joke gone a little too far. Even if the puns are a bit much, the developers have gone to great lengths to imagine what a world populated by dogs would look like. Nearly every logo seems to have a paw on it, there are lots of touchscreens, and doorknobs are a weird relic from the past.

Moreover, this game features a crazy amount of dogs-dressed-as-humans, and they?ve gone to the trouble of giving every dog different facial expressions depending on what the story is calling for. We?re not talking about anything insane as far as graphics go — in true visual novel fashion, speaking characters slide on and off the screen — but there?s still a lot of characters here, and all of them have different outfits, so it doesn?t seem like it?s the sort of thing that could?ve just been thrown together on a lark.

And, of course, there?s the story itself. While A Summer with the Shiba Inu isn?t as long as some visual novels I?ve played, it?s definitely lengthy enough that it?ll keep you occupied for a good chunk of the day, if you want to see it all the way through to its 10+ endings.

In fact, if the game has a drawback, it?s that it?s a little too elaborate for its own good. As plot piles upon plot and characters and twists get introduced and you jump back and forth across the game?s timeline, you may find that it?s all a little too much to keep track of. I wouldn?t say that A Summer with the Shiba Inu is too complicated to understand by any means, but it?s definitely not as lighthearted and silly as you might expect from a game where dogs dress and act like people.

But complexity isn?t a bad thing, and neither is A Summer with the Shiba Inu. It may sound like a joke at first, but if you?re a fan of visual novels, you?ll find that it?s far better than it has any right to be.

Ratalaika Games provided us with an A Summer With the Shiba Inu PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: B