Pet simulators are no stranger to the electronic world. Pocket Creatures by Tactile Entertainment was released with the premise to become your newest best friend. Ever since Tamagotchis took the world by storm, developers have latched onto the fun that a fantasy pet can bring. And in truth, what they have to their advantage is they are cleaner and easier to care for than a real pet. From your Pocket Creature’s birth in the temple, to the exploration of new land, to making friends with its fellow inhabitants, control of your newest pet will be entirely in your hands. But with the abundance of pet sims does Pocket Creatures have what it takes to climb the ranks and reach classic status?
Your creature is a cute mix of cartoon characteristics, with all emphasis on its large hand-tail. Yes you read that correctly. Your character has a long tail with a hand at the end which is used to eat bumble bees and interact with other creatures. Though you can control all of its actions, your creature also has a mind of its own and you may find it wandering from place to place occasionally eating bees or just staring off into the world above the iPod Touch and iPhone.
Taking care of your new pal is the premise of the app and you will spend most of your time feeding, gathering food, planting new crops, putting it to sleep but most importantly interacting. Touching your creature with familiar touch screen gestures will elicit proper responses from it. Slap it and it will get angry. Poke it and lightning might strike – literally. Give it hugs and a rainbow appears. Each of these reactions can then be used within your environment. Hungry? Use lightning to fry an anteater for roasted meat. Many more actions such as this are possible lending to great exploration. Included are over 40 Open Feint achievements – several of which are “secret” – so the more exploring you do, the more achievements you can earn. Ultimately, the personality your friend develops is shaped and molded by the actions you direct.
Interaction: Your creature reacts in a very realistic manner which is definitely quite fun. Roasting the skunk has never been more satisfying. Treat your creature with kindness and kind qualities will come through. Be a bully to your creature and a little hooligan might be your new best friend causing havoc in the neighborhood.
Exploration: With so many achievements to discover, the game truly becomes about exploration by trial and error. Sometimes an achievement is met merely by accident but the fun is in the trying. Perhaps it was frying critters, perhaps it was planting seeds, perhaps it was eating those same seeds, but with such open-ended game play there are so many things to do and try.
Collection: Linked to the achievements are a great many collectables for you to earn. These collectables come in the form of clothing and you can change the way your character looks with a simple tap. From explorer to knight to pirate and more, your creature’s apparel can change as you earn new items.
No need for wifi: While wifi provides a social outlet for many similar pet simulators, Pocket Creatures has no need for wifi since apart from the Open Feint achievements, the game is geared for a single player. Finally a game of this nature for iPod Touch owners to play anywhere.
Farming and Planting: One of your character’s needs is food and to keep it happy it needs a steady supply. Unfortunately along with the tree shaking and random discoveries of food, this requires a lot of digging, planting and the maintenance that goes along with that. You will find yourself digging and re-digging your entire area countless times as the items are randomized. You might find a seed hidden in a pot, you might find a root, but seeds require planting and planting requires water and fertilizer and this process quickly mushrooms out of control. Couple that with “training” your creature to like most foods, feeding becomes a chore.
Menus: While the menus are large and easy to use, selecting items from the menus is difficult because you must manually minimize them. If your creature needs some food, you can select the food but then must drop it in the area, close the menu, then feed your creature. It doesn’t sound like much but it feels like too many steps to take. Occasionally I have been able to drag out an item and have the menu close on its own but that feels more lucky and random to me than how it was designed.
Lack of instruction: While there is a detailed tutorial in the form of tablets that drop onto your land, there don’t seem to be any other formal instructions included. In the beginning, the tablets will drop and will outline major actions necessary for the care and upkeep of your pet. Along with those, are tasks that need to be accomplished. This seems to be in an effort to discern whether you have understood the directions of the tablet. But because of the high exploratory value of the game, some of these actions may have been stumbled upon before the tablet gets dropped. Then it becomes an exercise in finding the right item again before that instruction box can go away on the screen. The tablets are fine and fun to discover, just the mandatory task completion is what is annoying.
Purpose: Yes, a pet simulator’s main purpose is to be fun and entertaining while at the same time engaging, but it feels as though some of what you are doing right now has no real purpose. In fact, the developer has stated that some of the actions you can do at the present will become clearer in future updates. While dedication from a developer is welcome, promises of that nature can turn people off. With so many questions swirling around the future, a consumer will have to wonder and hope that those updates are released.
Unfortunately this title seems to be another victim of the bug epidemic that has plagued high profile releases of late. The developer promises quick updates to solve some of the crashing and some of the achievements not registering. Though the game is definitely playable, it would have been irresponsible not to mention that there are some ongoing issues.
If exploring a new world with a new best friend appeals to you, Pocket Creatures by Tactile Entertainment surely fits that bill with plenty of actions, collectables, achievements and tasks. Pocket Creatures also delivers arguably the cutest best friend you might ever meet, hand-tail and all. Combinations of seeds and the choice of eating or planting will have you busy for hours. The game does offer a ton of content, even if much of it on first glance appears repetitive. Tactile Entertainment just might have created your new constant companion.
Pocket Creatures version 1 by Tactile Entertainment is available at the present time for $2.99. It is a universal app designed for both iPhone and iPad. It was reviewed on a 2g iPod Touch running OS 3.x.