Tamagotchi Soccer

The virtual pet sensation of the nineties cashes in on World Cup fever. But this is no beautiful game

Surely even Bandai couldn't have predicted what would happen when, back in 1997, it released the first Tamagotchi key chain.

Inexplicably, the world went cyber pet insane. Millions of seemingly normal people became obsessed with their bleeping critters. Kids failed exams, adults just stopped going to work, unable to draw their attention away - even for a second - from what amounted to a lump of pixels floating around on a tiny LCD screen encased in a plastic egg. And like other ridiculous fads including Cabbage Patch Kids, drain pipe jeans and the British motor industry, it seemed entirely of its time, mystifying to all subsequent generations.

But then mobile phone games came along and publishers realised there was money to be made in nostalgia. And now Tamagotchi is back (and on DS too).

German publisher Living Mobile grasped the phone game licence from Bandai and has already bashed out a basic Tamagotchi simulation. Just when you thought they couldn't get anymore cynical, here's another version - complete with weak and unconvincing soccer theme - blasted out into a World Cup obsessed universe like an inaccurate Lampard volley.

But really, this is just Tamagotchi, pure and unutterably simple. You start the game, a blob appears on your screen. You feed it when its hunger meter drops, you play with it or shove a snack in its face if its happiness meter drops, and you 'discipline' it if it starts refusing to eat or play. Oh yes, and if it poops on the screen, you give it a bath (or feed it medicine if you leave to much cack lying about and it gets diseased).

Do this for long enough and, assuming you haven't wept yourself blind at having wasted a fiver on such pointless tosh, your pet grows into its next phase of life. Then you do it all again, until it evolves a few more times. Then your pet snuffs it, leaving a virtual cyber corpse on your phone screen.

Reset.

'Where's the soccer element in that?' you might well ask. Well, that'll be taken care of in the three mini-games. These have always been a part of the Tamagotchi 'experience' except now they're vaguely football themed.

In Run, you press left or right to run in the direction of a falling ball. In Control, you press the action button at the right time to head the ball. And in Goalie you simple try to guess whether the penalty will be hit left or right of your pet. That's it. That's the Soccer part.

For some reason - call it misplaced faith in the fundamental goodness of mankind - we were expecting something more. We thought they might do something amusing, enabling you to care for and nurture a little footballing creature, feeding it pasta and chicken, making it turn up to training, ensuring it didn't spend too much of its time in West London night clubs with orange-faced soap starlets. That kind of thing.

But Tamagotchi Soccer - like the England squad funnily enough - has taken a baseball bat to the thin skull of hope and is still pounding away at it. (I suspect Bandai imposed some strict limits on its property, but that's really no excuse).

Tamagotchi once worked because people loved the packaging, the cute little egg design, the way Bandai released lots of different versions to appeal to our inner nerdy collector. The fact that they evolved in slightly different ways depending on how you treated them was sort of interesting at the time too (this still applies - do you stuff your Tama with snacks or play loads of games to keep him trim?), but now we have My Dog, The Sims and Neopets. Tamagotchi is laughable compared to these modern wonders.

Look, the nineties are gone, and Tamagotchis aren't funny or entertaining anymore - even with a vague footie theme tacked on. This concept should be put in a shoebox and solemnly buried in the back garden.

3 /10

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