Version tested: DS
Weren't Tamagotchi supposed to be about interaction? Remember that dreadful fad a few years back when children clung to plastic keyrings, declaring every fifteen seconds that "it needs to be fed!" or "it needs to go for a poo!"? These were, at least, somewhat novel. The toy you had to keep playing with, or it would die. Nevermind that a new one would hatch right away - the previous one was dead, and now there would be tears and tantrums.
So it's somewhat sad that the most immediately absent feature of this new Tamagotchi-based DS game is that the buggers can't die. Not that you'll be wishing them dead, but that they simply aren't Tamagotchi. What we have here is something of the most extreme obscurity - the type that's hard to write about without worrying people will think you're making it up - without managing to be interesting at any point.
At the beginning you choose one of three Tamagotchi partners, and then pick between two modes, Care, or Store. Store is where the game really takes place, and Care is where the game really should have taken place. In Store you can choose between an ever-increasing number of small commercial enterprises, which with the assistance of your Tamagotchi friend you must satisfy a never-ending stream of ‘Gotchi customers. Stores include a cake decorating service, a dentist, and, er, a tree-based bath house. Yes, all the first things you'd think of.
And it only gets stranger. Each store is little more than a minigame on the scale of a Wario Ware three-second filler. Except, drawn out to nearer a minute. And then that same game over and over and over. For no reason. The given purpose is being paid Gotchis - the currency of these folk - in order to purchase items for your own Tamagotchi in Care mode. Which, you know, makes sense. You earn the money to increase the ways in which you can interact with your pet. Except, um, that doesn't happen.
You can decorate the room he's in, buy furniture, furnishings, etc, but they just sit there. He doesn't interact with them. You can buy him snacks, but while he offers an appreciative comment in a speech bubble, there's no animation showing his eating it. In fact, it appears to do nothing that a Tamagotchi ever did. You can't overfeed, not only because everything costs so many Gotchis that you'd not afford it, but because he doesn't need to be fed in the first place. You can't even play with him. Given that there's a stylus at your disposal, you'd think that there were all manner of opportunities for playful interaction. But rather there is only one series of responses resulting from tapping on your cartoon buddy:
- "Welcome John.
- That tickles.
- Stop it.
- Quit it.
- No no!
- I said no, John!"
Leaving you feeling as though you molested the thing. Which is, you know, horrible.
So despite the constantly unlocked extra decorative features made available by reaching certain points with the businesses, there's less than ten minutes entertainment to be found. The focus is entirely in Store.
So it's a shame they're not more fun. Without ever being terrible, they are very mundane tasks made tedious through extraordinary amounts of repetition. When running a cake decorating firm, a string of Tamagotchi will come in requesting particular cakes. You, using the tools from the tabs on the right side of the screen, must create it - dye the icing, add the decorations, draw on the patterns using the icing and cream, and cut it the correct size. Again and again and again. This is one of the more interesting shops as well. Dentist, novel as it first appears, involves repeating the very same series of tasks without deviation or the interest of crafting particular designs. You drill, tweezer (the cavity fairy out, naturally), wad and brush, none requiring any skill. With a time limit such tasks might prove more complicated, but despite the appearance of a need to hurry, and complaints from the customers/patients, there's no reason for speed. Once a task is complete, you choose "Done", and even if your work is deemed to have failed you are still rewarded with the same number of Gotchi.
Tasks get even more dull. Early on you're required to manage some sort of peculiar public bath in a tree, where customers request various coloured shampoos, bubble baths and drinks. You select them, drag them onto the Tamagotchi, and manage the temperature of the water by chopping wood. And wonder why. Then amongst others there's necklace/brooch making, which suggests it's going to develop something of a puzzle, but never delivers; a ‘Takoyaki' shop where you make dumplings with no variety; a hair dressers where you give complete makeovers; and ‘Live House' where you perform some manner of PaRappa the Rapper-alike game in time with the tune. (PaRappa's creator, Nana-OnSha, is responsible for this game, which only makes things more disappointing). Again, it's a pleasingly different idea made dull by endless repetition.
Eventually a Tamagotchi who looks similar to your own will enter your shop, poorly disguised, along with a very strange dialogue about how he might be the Tamagotchi's dad, who if you perform well will pay for your store to be upgraded. This often makes very little difference, perhaps adding a few more options on the right side tabs, but really only asking you to do more of the same. After two expansions to the store a Princess will visit, who gives you a royal flag, and sometimes unlocks a new store. And that really is your lot.
So lots of variation in minigames is nice, but such uninteresting minigames that need to be played through at least thirty times each with little incentive are not. Nor are the poorly translated conversations, or the features mentioned in the manual being absent in the game. Only minor details, but still indicative of a lack of quality. There are also some frustrating delays before the touch screen recognises the stylus which only serve to aggravate when trudging through tasks just to see if something else will happen.
It's not Tamagotchi, but rather a cutely drawn and engagingly sweet world that does very little to be interesting. Just having what Tamagotchi was ever meant to be would have made the dull tasks bearable, as a means for buying more toys and tools for playing with your virtual pet. But inexplicably they didn't do that. Which makes their game a bit rubbish, really.
Beautiful music, cute visuals, and a peculiarly charming attitude make you want to like it. Recognising that it's aimed at younger players makes you want to forgive it. But it cannot be denied that this is a big ol' mess of nice ideas executed badly, with the most important ingredient completely missing.
4 / 10