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Animal Doctor – Game Review

There’s a moment in Hellraiser II: Hellbound in which series protagonist Kirsty gets pulled into what is — for all intents and purposes — Hell, after the lament configuration is activated. Kirsty must confront and battle her perv-ball uncle Frank, her stepmother Julia, and assorted Cenobites (aka S&M demons) through a twisting labyrinth before she can return to the real world. Spoilers, by the way. The movie is at least thirty years old. You’ve had plenty of time to watch it.

Well, I’ve got news for you. Hellbound got it all wrong.

The void of torturous confusion and pain Kirsty enters isn’t accurately represented in Hellbound. I now believe — if such a place really exists — it looks more like the vaguely rural (maybe demonic) trappings of Animal Doctor, a multiplatform “game” that nearly drove me to insanity.

I have a “friend” who had an “idea.” He approached me with a bet: reach 100% completion in this terrible game and obtain every achievement (playing on Xbox), and I’ll purchase a real, full-priced game for you. That’s it. Simple enough, right?


Where do I begin with a “game” like Animal Doctor? It consists purely of going from point A to point B, pressing a button, mashing another button to speed through the dreadful dialogue and voice acting, then going back to point A to press a combination of those buttons several more times to complete the mission. The game’s name is a bald-faced lie. You do not play the role of an animal doctor. You play the role of a way-too-enthusiastic intern just chomping at the bit to receive additional orders. This dead-eyed avatar (a man or woman, depending on which end of the binary spectrum your brain happens to be in at the character select screen) is more than happy to take orders and have his/her time wasted throughout the game’s runtime. The player’s time, in turn, is wasted as well.

Need to take some chicken shit (I’m talking actual chicken shit, by the way) to the lab and test it for diseases? Great. Go do that, you little scrub. Then run all the way back to the farm where the sick chickens reside to tell the animal doctor (who was just at the animal doctor lab, and I guess teleported to the farm ahead of you? I guess?) about the test results. I think. I was fairly intoxicated at this point, because that’s the only method I could find to effectively cope with what was going on. I have no idea if that is a completely accurate recollection of that particular sequence in Animal Doctor, but it’s close enough. All I know is that your intern is forced to run (or ride a shitty horse, I’ll get to that in a bit) back and forth between points A and B with zero incentive to do so (unpaid interns, LOL) and maybe be forced to run or ride from point B back to point A, then from point A to point B again, then back to point A, to complete the mission. It’s that bad.

What does any of this have to do with being a veterinary intern?

That’s the mission structure — at least three missions of which involve violating poor, unsuspecting fauna with rectal thermometers. Go to point A. Press a button. Listen to a poorly-animated mannequin give you orders. Go to point B. Press another button. Listen to another poorly-anim…you get the point. The game features an XP meter, but completing the mainline story missions often isn’t even enough to advance to the next level (there are thirty for no apparent reason), which is usually required to unlock the next main mission. So, you’re often forced to go back and complete “side missions,” which are actually just repeats of the main missions. Collect ten pieces of cheese and deliver them to the villagers. Collect ten bottles of milk and, yes, deliver them to those lazy asshole villagers. What does any of this have to do with being a veterinary intern? Again, this is a waste of the player’s time. I don’t want you to lose sight of that point. It gets worse, though. Join me as we descend further into this rabbit hole of utter crap.

What the actual fuck is going on in the world of Animal Doctor? There’s a village, a couple farms, a stream, and a lake. Each area is almost completely devoid of life, except for the occasional deer, squirrel, or piece of misshapen livestock. Every creature populating the map that’s approximately 1/20th the size of Skyrim’s — humans included — either stands completely still, staring off into space, or scuffles along slowly as if it’s in some sort of limbo, waiting for the reaper to bring it a sickle and some peace. There are flower beds near almost every house, but they look more like hastily filled unmarked grave mounds. Who’s buried here? Several homes have attached garages with the doors left wide open, and others are closed, but they’re all empty. Where are all the vehicles? How do these people get around? There are remnants of a cookout in nearly every backyard. There’s nothing to eat here except hot dogs, apparently. Peek inside the windows of each domicile, and you find they’re completely devoid of art, appliances, and furniture. Do the half-dozen humans who inhabit this hellscape never sit down? Do they never sleep? Do they never blink? Two women stand in front of one house having a “conversation,” and by this, I mean they stand motionless, locked in a disturbing staring contest, with The Shining apparently being the only form of communication taking place between them. It creeps me out, so I give that area a wide berth.

Even the physics are arcane nonsense. There’s almost no environmental movement except for the slightly-swaying foliage and the occasional butterfly. Your character gets hung up on the smallest logs and rocks, as if some invisible wall extends above them into the heavens. The only doors that open are a handful at the vet clinic and a few pasture gates. Your intern can’t seem to muster a jump higher than a few inches off the ground, forcing me to question if this is all taking place in a Truman Show-esque simulation dome on a distant planet with much stronger gravity than Earth’s. Swings on swing sets don’t swing. Merry-go-rounds don’t go ‘round. It doesn’t matter. All the children living here were probably either consumed or brutally murdered in the ritual sacrifice to placate whatever elder gods dwell beneath this town. This is a desolate, post-apocalyptic nightmare in which life and death do not exist as we understand them in our plane of reality. I theorize that somewhere outside the boundaries of the game map is something akin to the Marker from Dead Space, reanimating these undead ghouls who only move when the infernal signal whispers to them.

This isn’t journalism. This is righteous venting.

The controls are ass, at least on the Xbox. I shouldn’t need to explain why, but if I had to guess, it’s because this was a PC game first and the German dev team couldn’t be bothered to spend more than twenty minutes sensibly mapping the keyboard controls to a controller. I might be wrong about that, but I don’t care. This isn’t journalism. This is righteous venting.

I turned the music off after about three minutes because it gave me a stark choice between silence or gouging out my eardrums with a screwdriver. The song (the only one in the game that plays on a dreadful, never-ending loop) sounds like some royalty-free yokelcore trash that was probably the devs’ best estimation of what Midwesterners in the U.S. listen to when they’re outside a werkin’ on the farm with the cows ‘n pigs ‘n sheeps. I was more than happy to listen to the ambient sounds consisting of birds chirping, cows mooing, and horses whinnying.

Let’s talk about the horse. You unlock the horse, who I named Shit Roach (a loving homage to Geralt of Rivia’s brave stallion in The Witcher), after the first few missions. You can’t fast-travel to location icons on the map, so Shit Roach is your best bet for quickly (sort of) getting around. Tapping a button on the D-pad immediately teleports this demonic entity directly behind you. He disappears as soon as you dismount and walk a short distance away, because — I assume — he must return to the tormented carcass-filled pits of Hell to consume more souls before he has the energy to be summoned again. I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on with the horseback controls, because pulling left on the control stick would sometimes make Shit Roach pivot right, and vice versa. I don’t know or care why. Demon steeds sometimes do as they wish, I suppose. If you have a favorite horse you love to hate in any video game, whether it’s Epona, Roach, or Despair, give it a carrot and a pat on the head the next time you see it. It deserves your love and praise. Shit Roach? He deserves nothing more than the grinder and rendering vat at the glue factory. Presuming such a thing would actually kill him.

Now that I’ve painted you a picture of the vile machinations of Animal Doctor’s world, allow me to tell you one final hair-raising tale of horror that will hopefully drive off any curiosity-seeking masochists who think this sounds like a “trashy-fun” game to play for a giggle. There’s one collect-a-thon mission in Animal Doctor that exists separately from the story. It consists of picking up forty-nine picture fragments (puzzle pieces) scattered across the map and placing them on a board located in the village to create a picture that looks like a toddler’s best effort in Microsoft Paint.
Sorry, did I say forty-nine? I meant fifty. Forty-nine is the number that would have netted me the rare “Artist” achievement and 100% completion several hours before I was pushed to the brink of madness as I scoured the map like some insane Florida Man desperately looking for leftover meth rocks in a WalMart parking lot. You see, most of these fragments (modeled as small gold hexagonal coins floating a few inches above the ground) are in easy-to-spot areas like trails or open fields with little to no shrubbery to obscure them. You simply find them as a matter of course while zig-zagging your way across the map during your many errands. I had gathered forty-nine when I completed the final story mission, so I ventured back out across Hillbilly Matrix to locate piece number fifty.

I cannot describe accurately with words in any human language how enraged I eventually became — nor the archaic leaps in logic my own brain made to rationalize what was happening — as I attempted to hunt down this final, accursed trinket. But I’ll try.

All of this made me realize I am quite possibly the world’s only Animal Doctor superfan…

As I rode Shit Roach back and forth across the map like a robotic Lone Ranger programmed for this one purpose, the mild contempt I already felt for the developers (and the man responsible for this game infecting my library like a disease) boiled over into seething hatred. Minutes turned into hours. My mind began to break and play tricks on me. “Is that it?” I blurted out to myself several times, rushing to a speck of gold in the distance. Nope. Just another fucking daisy. The game’s draw distance is short enough with some objects that I started believing I had passed by it several times and simply wasn’t close enough to see it rendered. The fragments float close to the ground, raising the possibility that the last one was actually underwater, so I inspected every virtual square foot of the stream and the lake with no luck. I went to the Internet in search of answers. Aside from a three-plus hour playthrough on YouTube focused only on the main missions, I found nothing of value. No player-created maps showing the locations of all fifty fragments. No guides. Nothing. Of course not. Who would be crazy enough to do any of that? All of this made me realize I am quite possibly the world’s only Animal Doctor superfan, and that realization only stoked my anger and determination to finish it so I could delete it from my hard drive.

It also made me feel terribly, deeply alone.

I tweeted at the publisher and developer (both German), even opening a support ticket, pleading for a list of locations or a map that would allow me to narrow down the resting place of the last fragment. No replies. Verdammte arschlöcher! My mind already frayed and buckling from the stress of sustained failure, I began to think this was a not-so-elaborate troll, a practical joke added in by the devs to spite anyone dumb enough to try to reach 100% completion. One final insult to cap off several hours of insults. “There is no fiftieth piece,” I thought to myself several times. But as I looked at the game’s achievement list on the Xbox dashboard, I knew this was a lie I was trying desperately to convince myself was true. A futile effort to comfort myself and justify the several hours I’d already wasted on this pointless scavenger hunt. So, the final piece was somewhere. But where? I resorted to freehand drawing the game’s map onto a scrap of paper so I could cross off areas I had searched in a deliberate combing pattern, like some sad search crew trying to find a lost child. This tactic offered me little confidence that I wasn’t still somehow missing something.

Another terrifying thought eventually crept into the darkest corners of my mind. “What if the developers are far cleverer than I gave them credit for?” What if they squirreled the fiftieth fragment away inside some cupboard or on top of a house, or perhaps hid it as a reward in some secret mission I hadn’t discovered? I sprinted to any door or gate in the game world that looked like it might be openable, mashing the “X” button. Nothing. I bunny-hopped my way to the top of some rocky cliffs in the village and leapt to rooftops below, simultaneously hoping my search would end and that the zombified derelict I was piloting would shatter his ankles. No such luck. He wants to die but he can’t be killed. I started imagining some eldritch horror — Shit Roach’s gangly foal, perhaps — was holding the remaining fragment in his mouth, contorted into a ghastly demonic grimace, always stalking me but never showing himself.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “My word, this story has to end with him finding the last fragment, right?” Maybe you’re thinking that I eventually discovered a way to sneak into the game code or found an obscure solution buried deep within some online message board that would result in a spectacular, triumphant discovery! However, as with most things in life, this epic struggle ended not with a bang, but with a wet fart.

The sad fact is, I simply stumbled across the final piece of the puzzle. There I was, feverishly searching the farm in the map’s northwest corner for the dozenth time, in a sullen bourbon-soaked haze, and suddenly, there it was. Spinning. Shining. Twinkling. My ticket to a real free video game. In an area I had definitely run through several times before. That fleeting moment of euphoria was immediately overcome with shame and regret as I mounted Shit Roach one last time and desperately whipped him toward the puzzle board. How many hours of my life had I poured into this misery? It’s one of the few times I’ve been relieved to discover the absence of an in-game clock to track my playtime. Because of this, I can lie to myself and say those few, brief hours were worth the payoff. But I know deep down that’s not true.

Do not play Animal Doctor. It’s not funny. It’s not fun. It’s not rewarding, aside from the 1000 achievement points you get from fully completing it. They’re not worth it. Like most internships, Animal Doctor revels in wasting your time and gives you essentially nothing in return.