Gamer Tricked Into Buying Lame DS Dolphin Title By Erroneous Ad, Publisher Dragging Its Fins

All Jess wanted was a Nintendogs-style DS game that would let her frolic with an imaginary pet dolphin, teach it a few tricks and perform routines in front of an adoring virtual crowd. Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery seemed to fit the bill because its site, as well as the box it comes in, says the game lets you do just that.

But when Jess opened the game, she learned she’d jumped through a flaming hoop without being rewarded with the treat she was hoping for.

I find myself on a tropical island, seeing the ocean from the point of view of a baby dolphin as I explore the sea, finding treasure and helping marine life in need with the option to take part in several mini-games. There’s no audience, no behaviors to train, and I’ve yet to see the ability to play with different dolphins. The in-game graphics do not match the screenshots on the back of the box; it appears as though there’s supposed to be a theme park or aquarium in “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery,” but the game I received takes place on an island. The included instruction manual supports the latter scenario, noting, “In ‘Dolphin Discovery,’ you’ll enjoy a trip to a small island in the southern sea. During this holiday you can spend time together with your dolphin friend, explore the sea depths, and take pictures or collect hidden treasures.” This is totally different than what is described on the box and on the game’s website.

If I’m not mistaken, “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery” seems to be advertised on the box and the DiscoveryKidsGames.com website as the UK game “My Pet Dolphin,” when, in fact, it is “My Pet Dolphin 2.”

“Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery” is cute, but I was expecting to play a much different game — one with training and shows, and much more direct interaction with the virtual dolphins.

After being stonewalled by 505 Games in her request to have the publisher send her the UK game that was advertised to make up for her disappointment, on May 10 she contacted a PR agency that handles 505 Games, which promptly told her “the appropriate people” were looking into the situation. But more than two weeks later, Jess is still adrift in a sea of disappointment, with no DS dolphin pal to keep her company.

Here are some side-by-side comparisons

  Description on the box
“Play with and train your new pet dolphin, master a huge selection of tricks, then take your show in front of a live audience! Use your DS Stylus to teach your dolphin tricks and routines. Realistic scenery and time changes: blue sky – sunset – night views. Perform dazzling routines that wow the crowd and reward you with new dolphins to train”
 
  Description in the manual
“In Dolphin Discovery, you’ll enjoy a trip to a small island in the southern sea. During this holiday you can spend time together with your dolphin friend, explore the sea depths, and take pictures or collect hidden treasures.”
 
Screens on the box


 

Screens in the manual


 
Text on the website
“Wanna makes a splash? Teach your pet dolphin awesome tricks and routines! Then wow the crowd at the big show to win more dolphins!”
 
My Pet Dolphin
Takes place at a water park, where you train your dolphin to perform tricks for an audience
My Pet Dolphin 2
Takes place on and around an island in a natural environment
Just to make it more confusing:
Video footage on website shows non-specific game footage combined with actual video footage of dolphins


 

Comments

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  1. eskimo81 says:

    Welcome to the publisher abusing the “you can’t return that because you might have pirated it” rule!

    • Ratty says:

      @eskimo81: Doesn’t really work with DS carts.

      • jrlcopy says:

        @Ratty: Why not? They are just as easily pirated as discs.
        [www.destructoid.com]

      • smileboot says:

        @Ratty: Are you being serious? The DS is probably the MOST pirated system at this current time. since you can get a cheap hack cart for say $30 then put upto a 8GB sd card (i think) and load it with multiple games.

        I get the whole “Its open so you made a copy” but it ceased being needed 5+ years ago since most games need a serial code (when it gets returned kill the code and issue a new code you lazy publishers). Or just cant be used online (xbox live bans).

        My bigger issue is with gamestop opening games before their sold then not allowing returns. If your gonna preopen you better accept anything or not open them.

        • Ratty says:

          @smileboot: @jrlcopy: Yes, DS games can be pirated. I myself have an M3DS REAL. HOWEVER, the concern is over PC games and other disc games and burning ISOs and taking serials. Most people will not have a way to actually extract data from a DS cart. While anyone can easily drag and drop ROM files from online to a custom DS cart, almost every single one of those people simply downloaded it from elsewhere. As in people are not buying DS cartridges to pirate since that is impractical–they’re buying it to buy a game.

          No person I know with something like an R4 or CycloEvolutionDS actually extracted games from orgiginal DS carts first. They downloaded it. If they wanted to take it from the cart it would require extra expensive and uncommon hardware–FAR more uncommon than an R4 and an internet connection. Whereas I’ve seen tons of people who install games to their PC or XBOX, or just take a serial from a PC game, and want to return it.

    • nakedscience says:

      @eskimo81: Uh, I actually own an “R4″ — but don’t worry, I still buy PLENTY of games. I use it test the games out (mostly I buy games for my 7 year old nephew, a few for friends bdays and such).

    • anduin says:

      @eskimo81:
      still the game isn’t what was advertised, she should get a refund otherwise its just plain lying

  2. VOIDMunashii says:

    Wow, shovelware that manages to twist the knife just a little bit more than usual by giving you a completely different crappy game than the crappy game you thought you were getting.
    Are we sure it’s not “SOS Games”? That seems more appropriate.

    • jesspark says:

      @VOIDMunashii: The above-mentioned Jess here! Your comment sums it up precisely: I knew “Dolphin Discovery” was going to be bad, but I expected a different kind of bad than what I got. I’m all about cheesy video games, but I expected “Nintendogs”-cheesy, not “Ecco Jr.”-cheesy, and that’s a big difference.

    • trujunglist says:

      @VOIDMunashii:

      Personally I think POS games is probably the most appropriate

  3. Bluth_Cornballer says:

    Guess you could call this the old bait and switch. I bet they did that on porpoise.

  4. hallettoon says:

    HAHAHA LOL. Thank you! I needed a good laugh!

  5. fantomesq says:

    Has Jess contacted the retailer that she bought the game from? If all else fails, chargeback.

    • jesspark says:

      @fantomesq: Cash. I’ve learned a hard lesson: when buying video games that you know for a fact are going to be cheesy (ain’t no shame in my game), use your credit card in case said games are a different/worse kind of cheesy than you expected.

  6. Zenatrul says:

    This is like my horrible disappointment with the Bunnyz game. I knew it would be a training game but menu had these incredibly cute bunnies and same with the picking out what bunny you wanted.

    When you get in game its this hideous 3D bunny and you could play with it… or teach it to talk to you.

  7. Ezra Ekman says:

    It sounds like she took all of the right steps in trying to resolve the issue, and that she can’t do anything else. I hope she paid with a credit card. If so, her best course of action is simply to file a chargeback. When she does, she should simply state to the credit card issuer that the product she purchased was sold under false pretenses (false advertising, bait and switch, and bad faith with both the store and the manufacturer), and that she did not receive te product that she paid for. While the game title is technically correct, the product description and the actual product offering differ in very significant ways.

    This sucks for the store, because it’s not their fault. It’s the manufacturer’s fault. But if they won’t help and the manufacturer is non-responsive, a chargeback is her only recourse. It’ll get the store’s attention, and in turn, force the store to deal with the manufacturer to get their money, rather than the customer.

    When doing this, it’s important to state that the store offered a product who’s description was significantly different from the product she received. She should not mention her interaction with the company, because the credit card company will only care about the merchant that made the charge against her account. She must not claim that she didn’t receive the product; only that it was not what she was promised. If the store sends a copy of the receipt, it doesn’t matter; the issue wasn’t that she signed it. If the store points to a return policy that doesn’t allow open-box returns, it doesn’t matter; it’s not a question of like vs. dislike.

    The real issue is that the store advertised a product in such a way that would mislead a consumer; in this case, the OP. It doesn’t matter that the store used materials that were provided by the manufacturer. That will only matter if the store chooses to pursue legal action against the manufacturer, and the chargeback shouldn’t consider the manufacturer when investigating the claim. All that matters is that the store chose to market a product using materials that were false, regardless of who created them. If I try to sell my car using a sign my friend creates that claims the car can do 0-60 in 3.5 seconds (and it’s a Saturn :-P), it doesn’t matter that I didn’t make the sign. I would still have used it to try to sell something under false pretenses. And that is what has happened here, regardless of whether or not the store meant to. They still did, so they’re liable.

  8. Mike8813 says:

    I would recommend that anyone interested in a video game purchase read some online reviews. They give a good idea of what to expect, and whether it’s worth the considerable amount of money you’d be spending on it. For a quick summary of a game’s (perceived) worth, check out metacritic.com.

    I’m not saying that this person didn’t get screwed, because she did. But reviews can help sort out what a developer has promised on the box and what is actually delivered in the gameplay.

    Keep this in mind when you buy a video game as a gift for someone, too!

    • jesspark says:

      @Mike8813: Problem with this is, this wasn’t exactly “BioShock” or something well-known, you know? At the time I purchased the game, there weren’t really any reviews for “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery” out there (try doing a search on Metacritic — even now, it’s not listed), and video game sites like IGN stuck with the inaccurate descriptions from the company’s website and the game’s packaging.

      I thought I *was* researching “Dolphin Discovery” as best I could by reading reviews on Amazon.co.uk for what should’ve been the UK equivalent, “My Pet Dolphin.” I knew what to expect, but I didn’t take into account the possibility that 505 Games was going to pull a switcharoo on me.

      So, yeah, I’m absolutely a fan of researching games — and pretty much anything else — pre-purchase, but even doing that wouldn’t have made much of a difference in this case. “Dolphin Discovery” is not a widely-reviewed game, and everything available online suggested an experience entirely different from what was delivered.

      • Sarah Black says:

        @jesspark: here is what you were looking for:
        [www.gamespot.com]
        …both of them.

        But may I suggest, that if you wanted a “good dolphin game” (by way of reviews) that you instead check out the release, “Petz Wild Animals: Dolphinz”
        [www.gamespot.com]
        Im not sure if that is available outside of the USA but ordering online should get this title to wherever you want it to go.

        There is also a titled named, “Dolphin Island” – not as good, since you are playing as a trainer and performing multiple minigames.

        I hope this can help

        • jesspark says:

          @SnowingCookies: Thanks, SnowingCookies! The problem is, those reviews are still for “My Pet Dolphin” and “My Pet Dolphin 2″ — I’d read up on the UK equivalents and was led to believe that “Dolphin Discovery” was the US version of the former when it was really the latter. If I’d known “Dolphin Discovery” was actually “My Pet Dolphin 2,” I wouldn’t have purchased it; the sequel didn’t sound interesting to me.

        • jesspark says:

          @SnowingCookies: Also! Forgot to add: I totally own “Dolphinz,” too, and it’s not bad — it’s better than a title ending in “z” ought to be, at least. =) Gameplay-wise, I’d say it’s more “Zoo Tycoon” than “Nintendogs,” though; I was hoping for more of a pet sim with “Dolphin Discovery.”

          • Joewithay says:

            @jesspark: You can always go for the best Dolphin game ever made (if you haven’t already):

            Ecco the Dolphin

            Just too bad they have ported it to the DS yet.

    • anduin says:

      @Mike8813:
      man there is SO much crap that is not reviewed because nintendo, a huge culprit in this, no longer quality stamps the games and just opened the flood gates on licensing games for their systems. I feel for her because she’s going to have to stay on top of them to get a refund. Game companies are a pain in the ass to get money from.

  9. Ratty says:

    Ahh, the DS. Shovelware haven. leave it to one of those titles with a bad publisher to completely mess up their own information.

    • tinky XIII says:

      @Ratty: As much as I love the great games on my DS, for every one of those there are ten that are cobbled together with a “z” on the end to try and sell it to kids. During my last stint in retail I had to talk many, many people out of buying that crap for their kids on the basis that it’s not what it looks like, and the wee ones may very well have killed their parents in their sleep as retaliation.

      • Ratty says:

        @tinky XIII: I like to look at the DS game shelves and see how many games are worth buying. Each shelf has around 30-40 different titles and there are 6 shelves at my local store. Last visit only 2 shelves had ONE game worth buying.

        It’s terrible. The good games are amazing, but they’re so… rare.

  10. Megalomania says:

    I feel kind of bad for a person who would want to play a game even like the one advertised on a box… it seems like “crushed childhood dreams” level sad.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      @Megalomania: As a person who was considering buying a DS solely to play “Hamsterz,” I would like to take this opportunity to say: :-P

    • jesspark says:

      @Megalomania: I’m the Jess from this post — is it better or worse that I used to work with real dolphins at a well-known marine life park? =)

    • veg-o-matic says:

      @Megalomania: I’m not ashamed to say I’ve avoided much work with this little dolphin game.

      And, as long as we’re talking games involving bodies of water with dolphin-training mini games, Endless Ocean on the Wii.

      I am a child in my mid-twenties.
      I have no problem with that.

      • jesspark says:

        @veg-o-matic: I LOVE “Endless Ocean.” Like, probably to an unhealthy degree. I’ve been tempted to buy a second copy in the completely insane hope that, somehow, doing so would yield more gameplay. Fortunately, it shouldn’t have to come to that; Nintendo is supposed to be releasing a sequel sometime this year. :D

        I’m also thinking of importing the English/Chinese version of “Aquanaut’s Holiday: Hidden Memories.” It looks something like a high-def version of “Endless Ocean” — in other words, gorgeous:

        Also-also, I must simultaneously thank and curse you for introducing me to “Dolphin Cup.” =)

        • veg-o-matic says:

          @jesspark: I just like that EO is oddly relaxing. I’m no “gamer,” as the kids say, so simple and pretty and blue is good for me. Although now that we’ve covered pretty much all of the map, it’s not as intriguing.

          I used to think dolphin cup would get old. It really doesn’t. It just keeps jumping and jumping… so enjoy the lost hours! hehe.

          I hate not living near the water, so I pretty shamelessly eat up anything with an aquatic or beach theme, no matter the cheese.

          • jesspark says:

            @veg-o-matic: My husband and I live in Florida, but we’re smack-dab in the middle of the state, so it takes at least an hour to get to the beach on either side. We don’t get out there nearly enough.

            I’ve tried to remedy this by working with the marine mammals at a well-known marine life park and later getting a job that involved diving at a local aquarium, but it’s still not the same. Games like “Endless Ocean,” then, help chill me out between the times I can be in the water. If I could find, essentially, a “Nintendolphins” game, I’d gobble that right up, too! That’s one reason I was so disappointed when “Dolphin Discovery” didn’t turn out to be what it claimed.

            …Man, now I want to fire up “Endless Ocean.” =) You’re right in that it’s not as intriguing once you uncover the whole map (so much for being “endless,” right?), but there’s still been enough to do to keep me busy for something like eighty hours. The only other game to hold my interest for that long is “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” on the PS3, and, of course, any “Elder Scrolls” game is immense in scale! I want a new one of those, too. ;D

        • Zorantor says:

          @jesspark: I just picked up Aquanaut’s Holiday myself, and it’s a lot of fun. The translation is a little wonky here and there, but in a way that adds to the charm. The graphics and such are amazing, though. You have to buy it if you liked Endless Ocean.

          • jesspark says:

            @Zorantor: If you’re in the US, which site did you order it from? “Aquanaut’s Holiday” is currently on backorder at play-asia.com, but it’s in stock at yesasia.com for a few more bucks and an availability of “Usually ships within 30 days.” This would be the first time I’ve imported a video game, so I don’t quite know what to expect about where to order it, how long it takes to get here, etc.

            I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting for “Aquanaut’s Holiday” to be brought over here to the US, and, now that word is “Afrika” will be released here, I’m wondering if “Aquanaut’s Holiday” will follow.

            ‘Course, if I’d just imported “My Pet Dolphin” instead of waiting for the screwed-up US version, “Dolphin Discovery,” I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in! I seriously doubt something similar would happen with a US release of “Aquanaut’s Holiday,” but I’m probably just better off importing it, anyway.

            • Zorantor says:

              @jesspark: I used yesasia.com, and I can recommend them. They got it to me in just under two weeks, which is pretty reasonable considering that the shipping is free.

              As I’m sure you know, the PS3 is region-free so there’s no trouble playing it in a North American machine. No word so far on a US release, so you may as well go for the English/Chinese version.

              Do you ever go online with your PS3? Care to exchange PSN ID’s?

  11. Trai_Dep says:

    Now, if the surprise twist was that inside, it was an island-bound baby ZOMBIE dolphin, the world would rejoice.
    As is, someone needs to deliver a dead fish to the company’s doorstep.

  12. einstoch says:

    What I would personally suggest if the developer/producer fails to respond, contact Nintendo directly. They are well known to provide above and beyond customer service, and in this case will not likely not ignore your claims.

    • jesspark says:

      @the bends: I think that’s pretty much the only thing left to do at this point, unfortunately. : I copied and pasted my original letter to 505 Games into a contact form on Nintendo’s website and tweaked some things… before I hit “submit,” how’s this look? (Besides “really long,” that is. Being concise has never been my strong suit, and this is kind of a confusing situation to explain.)

      —–

      Hi there!

      I’m hoping you can help me with an issue I’ve found with 505 Games’ “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery,” a title currently available for the Nintendo DS. I believe the promotional materials, packaging, and websites describing this game to be an example of false advertising.

      I purchased “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery” for my DS on May 2nd, 2009, looking forward to the experience described on the back of the box: “Play with and train your new pet dolphin, master a huge selection of tricks and routines, then take your show in front of a live audience! Use your DS Stylus to teach your dolphin tricks and routines. Realistic scenery and time changes: blue sky – sunset – night views. Perform dazzling routines that wow the crowd and reward you with new dolphins to train.”

      Instead, upon starting up the game, I find myself on a tropical island, seeing the ocean from the point of view of a baby dolphin as I explore the sea, finding treasure and helping marine life in need with the option to take part in several mini-games. There’s no audience, no behaviors to train, and I’ve yet to see the ability to play with different dolphins. The in-game graphics do not match the screenshots on the back of the box; it appears as though there’s supposed to be a theme park or aquarium in “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery,” but the game I received takes place on an island. The included instruction manual supports the latter scenario, noting, “In ‘Dolphin Discovery,’ you’ll enjoy a trip to a small island in the southern sea. During this holiday you can spend time together with your dolphin friend, explore the sea depths, and take pictures or collect hidden treasures.” This is totally different than what is described on the box and on the game’s website.

      If I’m not mistaken, “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery” seems to be advertised on the box and the DiscoveryKidsGames.com website as the UK game “My Pet Dolphin,” when, in fact, it is “My Pet Dolphin 2.”

      “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery” is cute, but I was expecting to play a much different game — one with training and shows, and much more direct interaction with the virtual dolphins. Is there any way that I can exchange this game for what was advertised on both the website and the game’s box itself? In other words, is it possible to have the UK’s “My Pet Dolphin” rather than “My Pet Dolphin 2″ here in the US?

      I’ve attempted to get in touch with 505 Games both through support@505games.com and via Bender/Helper Impact, the promotional company handling their account. 505 Games never replied; Elizabeth S—— at Bender/Helper Impact wrote back to tell me that she’d forwarded my letter to “the appropriate people” at 505 Games, but that was back on May 10th and I’ve yet to hear anything more. In an effort to gain exposure and bring the problem to 505 Games’ attention — since emailing them didn’t seem to make a difference — I submitted my ordeal to http://www.consumerist.com, a website dedicated to helping consumers. There, it was suggested that I contact Nintendo directly, since Nintendo is known for providing exemplary customer service.

      Although I wanted to give 505 Games a chance to respond, it’s been nearly a month now and I feel that involving Nintendo is my only recourse at this time. I hope that you can help me resolve this disappointing and frustrating case of false advertising.

      Thank you for your time and your assistance!
      Jess A—-

      • The_IT_Crone says:

        @jesspark: It’s a bit long, so what I would do is put a SUMMARY at the beginning, not more than a short paragraph, then invite them to keep reading for more information. You don’t want them to skip reading it altogether.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @the bends: Nintendo does slap a seal of quality on every game released for the DS, so they would probably be interested to know that the box says one thing yet the game delivers a completely different thing. I don’t think they would give you a refund (they cannot replace games that are not published by them) but they might give you a freebie or something for your trouble.

    • jesspark says:

      @OMG! Conies!, The_IT_Crone, and Outrun1986: Well, I submitted my concern to Nintendo through their webform (beginning with a summary as suggested by The_IT_Crone!), and I received a generic “We’re sorry and we’re forwarding your feedback to the proper department” in response initially. I replied to that email with the newly-found information that the description of “Dolphin Discovery” on Nintendo’s website was inaccurate, and the reply was as follows:

      “I appreciate your taking the time to share your comments with us in regard to this issue. I will forward your email on to the appropriate department for further review. While you won’t be contacted further regarding this issue, please rest assured that your feedback will be taken into consideration.”

      So that’s a big ol’ “screw you.”

      There was a link for a survey included in this second reply. I rated my experience “poor” and entered my email address when asked if I required further contact. We’ll see if that makes a difference to them. At this point, though, my hopes aren’t high. I may file a complaint with the BBB, although I don’t think that’ll do much more than put a tiny ding in the company’s current A+ rating.

      Thanks a lot, Nintendo. :(

  13. glater says:

    I can’t say I’m horribly surprised that this has happened – 3rd party Nintendo products are almost as a rule totally junk, barring some titles from a few of the real big names. It’s an absolute crapflood kind of situation, for both the DS and for Wii. It’s one of the biggest disappointments of modern Nintendo – they’ll let anyone pump out the worst POS possible. They’re throwaway games made to go right into the bargain bin.

    I’ve been burned a few times by similar hijinks(some aquatic-themed games, too – fantasy aquarium, i’m looking at you) and have learned to just be extremely picky about what I buy, since Nintendo isn’t going to be picky about what they allow on their platforms.

    • wardawg says:

      @glater: It’s not a big leap to develop games for the Wii, most shovelware games don’t use much for the motion sensing aspects of the controler (except for racing games) and instead stick to treating the remote like a nes controler. The pointer tracks like a mouse, and it’s easy to port the SDL library so anyone who has developed for the PC can make the switch.

      There’s a lot of PC game programmers out there that get scooped up by these no-name companies and put to work as cheap labour on wii-shovelware development. I had a couple of friends offered jobs like that straight out of university, but they declined. One is now working for EA (sure they don’t have a great reputation but it looks good on a resume if you can stay there for more than 2 years) and the other has a government job.

  14. kyle4 says:

    There have been times that I’ve bought an awful game and I ended up eating the price of it and learning my lesson. This was pretty deceitful though, may I suggest submitting this to Kotaku too since they have more of an influence on the game community?

    My only suggestion to jesspark would be to Google for reviews next time. It doesn’t matter how bad the game is, there’s usually someone who has written a review. If there’s no demo available, I usually cruise to one or 5 sites depending on the game before making a decision.

    • jesspark says:

      @kyle4: Haha, Kotaku would eat me alive and spit out the pieces. ;D

      As for researching, as I said to Mike8813 above, this wasn’t exactly “BioShock” or something well-known, you know? At the time I purchased the game, there weren’t really any reviews for “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery” out there (try doing a search on Metacritic — even now, it’s not listed), and video game sites like IGN stuck with the inaccurate descriptions from the company’s website and the game’s packaging.

      I thought I *was* researching “Dolphin Discovery” as best I could by reading reviews on Amazon.co.uk for what should’ve been the UK equivalent, “My Pet Dolphin.” I knew what to expect, but I didn’t take into account the possibility that 505 Games was going to pull a switcharoo on me.

      So, yeah, I’m absolutely a fan of researching games — and pretty much anything else — pre-purchase, but even doing that wouldn’t have made much of a difference in this case. “Dolphin Discovery” is not a widely-reviewed game, and everything available online suggested an experience entirely different from what was delivered.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @jesspark: Actually, Kotaku (the editors and MOST of the commentators) would probably relish the kitch value. And bait-and-switch IS bait-and-switch, regardless of game.
        Especially if you lead (then close) with I knew this was going to be a cheese-fest, but I was ripped off because it was a lying cheese fest.
        Possibly add:

        I realize dolphins aren’t exactly Kotaku’s favorite genre, or even their third most favorite genre. Really, I do. But imagine I bought, say, a DS title advertising machete-wielding time-jumping zombie nurses and it actually featured a badly animated girl sick with the flu holding a frosting knife in an almost threatening fashion. With a bad case of procrastination so that she was always late to her appointments. Frosting cakes. And you had to play that instead. Now do you get it? Do you share my rage?
        xxxooo, thanks,

        Kitch and funny can carry you far with the unwashed, rabid Kotaku demographic.
        It’d be fun. I’d give it a whirl.

        Good luck – I hope you get some response from the publishers, or at least warn others!

        • jesspark says:

          @Trai_Dep: This made me laugh — thank you. :D

          I actually had a lead-in and conclusion to my Consumerist tip that stated outright my shameless love for “Nintendogs”-like games and the expectation that I would be roundly mocked in the comments for spending money on goofy pet sims to begin with, but that it was the principle of the thing that counted… however, your take is SO much better. Award-winning in its awesomeness, even.

          Thanks for the well-wishes! =)

  15. petrieslastword says:

    I 100% support simply pirating the game you were promised, along with any other games from said publisher. They want to screw the customer, give it right back to them.

    • shepd says:

      @petrieslastword:

      Yes, seriously, the hack carts can be had for ~$5 if you look around. Since they’re not legal in the US there’s a chance they’ll get snapped up by customs, but the place I’m thinking of includes shipping, so you’re out ~$5 (+ $0.01 to cover up the store name) for your trouble.

      You’ll also need to buy some SD-micro memory and a TF reader (might come with the card, who knows) to go with it, but that’s also dirt cheap (less than $6, remember to get it shipped separately).

  16. Cyco says:

    Metacritic.com is your friend. The combine reviews from multiple sources. Great place to go if you don’t want to visit multiple sites.

    • jesspark says:

      @Cyco: As I said to Mike 8813 and Kyle4 above, this wasn’t exactly “BioShock” or something well-known, you know? At the time I purchased the game, there weren’t really any reviews for “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery” out there (try doing a search on Metacritic — even now, it’s not listed), and video game sites like IGN stuck with the inaccurate descriptions from the company’s website and the game’s packaging.

      I thought I *was* researching “Dolphin Discovery” as best I could by reading reviews on Amazon.co.uk for what should’ve been the UK equivalent, “My Pet Dolphin.” I knew what to expect, but I didn’t take into account the possibility that 505 Games was going to pull a switcharoo on me.

      So, yeah, I’m absolutely a fan of researching games — and pretty much anything else — pre-purchase, but even doing that wouldn’t have made much of a difference in this case. “Dolphin Discovery” is not a widely-reviewed game, and everything available online suggested an experience entirely different from what was delivered.

  17. shadydentist says:

    Video games should never be impulse buys. Always research before you make a purchase, just like any other product.

    • jesspark says:

      @shadydentist: As I said to Mike8813, Kyle4, and Cyco above… this wasn’t exactly “BioShock” or something well-known, you know? At the time I purchased the game, there weren’t really any reviews for “Discovery Kids: Dolphin Discovery” out there (try doing a search on Metacritic — even now, it’s not listed), and video game sites like IGN stuck with the inaccurate descriptions from the company’s website and the game’s packaging.

      I thought I *was* researching “Dolphin Discovery” as best I could by reading reviews on Amazon.co.uk for what should’ve been the UK equivalent, “My Pet Dolphin.” I knew what to expect, but I didn’t take into account the possibility that 505 Games was going to pull a switcharoo on me.

      So, yeah, I’m absolutely a fan of researching games — and pretty much anything else — pre-purchase, but even doing that wouldn’t have made much of a difference in this case. “Dolphin Discovery” is not a widely-reviewed game, and everything available online suggested an experience entirely different from what was delivered.

      What would you have done differently in this situation?

  18. GTB says:

    Not being a console gamer and having never purchased a handheld since the gameboy (original) I had no idea that shovelware actually existed on console systems.

    • Joewithay says:

      @GTB: Yeah, it is everywhere now. It seems to me that 80% of Wii and DS games you see at a store are pretty much shovelware.

    • satoru says:

      @GTB: The Nintendo DS and Wii have been magnets for shovel ware because

      1) Their respective markets target casual gamers who wouldn’t know a good game if it stubbed their toe

      2) Development costs are much much lower than for the X360 and PS3. So it’s easier to just throw something together in a Eastern European gulag and publish it for cheap, yet still make some money without having to sell a few million copies.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      @GTB: Shovelware has really existed since the beginning of gaming, dare I mention the travesty that was E.T. on the Atari 2600. There is a barbie game on the NES that is very, very unplayable even by an adult but that I am sure many girls back in the 80s picked up off the shelves and bought. This is the same thing that is happening to the Wii and DS now. There was plenty of shovelware on the original GB too. It was even worse back then since we didn’t have anywhere to look for game reviews except for magazines and they only reviewed a few games per issue. You had to buy solely based on the box and coverart.

  19. jesspark says:

    @undefined: @Joewithay: Oh-ho-ho! I have “Ecco: Defender of the Future” (best bad game title ever) in both Dreamcast and PS2 flavors; the original Sega Genesis classic, its sequel, and “Ecco Jr.” as ported to the PS2 in “Sega Genesis Collection”; *and* the horrible Game Gear version. :D

    I do love me some Ecco, but the difficulty level has always been a little high for my lack of madd gaming skillz. Regardless, I’d really like to see the original game released on the DS! Although I don’t own it, I believe “Ecco the Dolphin” was released as part of a Sega pack for the GBA many moons ago. As I recall from reviews, they screwed up on the music big-time when they ported it over, though (looping one song over and over, I think), and I’d really miss that crazy New Age MIDI goodness.

  20. Hirayuki says:

    This may be what the OP was looking for.

    I’m a professional Japanese translator who specializes in video games. One of my clients has been a pretty steady source of these “z” and “Imagine” titles. Some of them I purchase and play; most I don’t get around to buying. And it’s one of the few times I don’t mind not getting a shoutout in the manual/game credits. ;)

  21. missy070203 says:

    in the 90’s sega had a dolphin games just like that you had to make it through caves and fight some bubble thing….. it was stupid but i couldnt stop playing it…

  22. B1663R says:

    Damn smile shark video game.

    unfortunately for the kid i don’t think that there is much that she can really do as that is how crappy games are dumped onto uninformed consumers.

    if buying a game you gotta check the reviews first, rent it for a few days and if you like it buy it!

    Nintendo as of late, has been allowing its publishers to crank out TONS of shovelware to appeal to uneducated consumers who judge a book by it cover. not just the DS though, the Wii as well (big shock, i know)

    good luck on the next one kid!

    • jesspark says:

      @B1663R: “Kid”? I’m twenty-six and married; I haven’t qualified as a “kid” in quite some time. ;)

      As for checking reviews first, please see my replies to Mike8813, Kyle4, Cyco, and shadydentist above.

  23. SanDiegoDude says:

    Seems like most of the shovelware coming out nowadays is for the Wii. Nintendo used to be pretty proud of it’s QA processes before it would give it’s stamp of approval. Looks like that has gone way downhill, considering the WRONG FRICKEN’ GAME made it all the way to the shelves…

  24. your new nemesis says:

    I don’t really play games anymore since my friend blew up my x-box. I can symathize with this person because I hated wasting money on a terrible game that promised excitement and fun and etc, only to discover that the few moments of “action” are preceded and followed by a level of mundane that is on par with an economics class.

  25. SacraBos says:

    Maybe they should make a game where you play a shark with a frikkin’ laser-beam on your head.

    • jesspark says:

      @SacraBos: No lasers, sadly, but the developers behind the “Ecco the Dolphin” series did release “Jaws Unleashed,” in which you play the shark:

  26. Outrun1986 says:

    The problem I see with all of this is that the shovelware is invading the shelves of retail stores, leaving less room for the meat and guts of the DS/Wii library. Half the time when I go to a store 50% of the DS slots are filled with Ubisoft Petz titles, leaving less room for other, good games to get their shelf space, leading to less sales for the actual good games.

    Games aren’t stocked consistently by retailers, once a game is gone its highly unlikely they will get another shipment of the same game, unless its Gamestop. Once New Super Mario bros for the DS is sold out, its replaced by the latest Ubisoft Petz and never restocked.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @Outrun1986: Don’t overlook the fact that what’s on shelves is largely dictated by who pays spiffs (payoffs). So retailers chasing the fast buck, instead of putting what’s in their customer’s best interest (and thus, long term, their interest) are to blame.

  27. fnool says:

    Honestly? When you purchase such horrible shovelware, you’re walking into a mess of problems like this.

    • jesspark says:

      @fnool: So you’re suggesting that I should be cool with getting a different cheesy game than the cheesy game than was advertised?

      Ahh, I love the blame-the-OPers. :)

  28. SirCannonFodder says:

    …I’m not exactly certain how I got here, and I realise that it’s been about 2 months since someone replied to this, but I agree with the others that you should tell Kotaku your story. Considering some of the other things I’ve seen them run, I’m pretty confident they’d post it, if only for the kitsch factor. I’d say that the fact that you’ve gone to Nintendo themselves and have been snubbed by them increases your chances quite a bit. You’re no longer just someone scammed by some no-name publisher, you’re now a loyal customer being scorned by the soulless beast Nintendo has become.