* Prices may differ from that shown
It's party season again, and once again presents in the universally agreed £5ish bracket in our area are entering our happy home. Which is how we acquired this Digital Pet. I hope the purchaser of this present paid £5 anyway, it seems to be fairly widely available at that price but I have also seen it for sale at Tesco for £9.97, which is a little too much to pay in my opinion. At £5 this makes a very respectable stocking filler or party present.
What you get:
This "pet" arrives in a blister pack with some instructions, and batteries are included. Basically it is a tamagotchi style pet, with a twist. It has a belt clip to attach to a bag or yourself, and is about 6cm, so fairly portable.
The screen, as you would expect at this price, is black and white and displays a picture of the pet featured, in this case a panda, there are other ones available such as a tortoise and a dog. The display is pretty basic and a good reminder of how computer games used to be about 20 years ago, but again at this price you are not expecting fantastic graphics.
The idea of the digital pet is that you keep your pet happy in various ways so that he will be happy to walk around a mini Littlest pet shop pixelled world looking for pets. Along the way there are 20 or so mini-games to play (more of which later).
The attachments pictured, a little brush and rose are used to groom and feed your pet, by inserting them into a gap on the side of the toy. There are two buttons, one is used to guide the pet around the world and another is used to "select". So far so good, fairly straightforward and intuitive.
The graphics, as mentioned earlier aren't fantastic, but the instructions included do show a map of where there is to go, in pictorial form, and then the instruction to check on the littlest pet shop website on how to play the minigames along the way. At the current time doing so will lead to a message promising instructions "soon", so in my opinion promising them in the instructions is rather misleading.
Whilst the child can easily work out how to wander around the world looking for the pets, the games do need further explanation. I spent a silly amount of time googling for instructions, which I eventually found in pdf form (I will include a link at the bottom of this review).
The mini games, however, do not work really - whoever came up with this has tried to be too clever and make games more complicated than feasible or really playable with minimal graphics, two buttons and a very small screen. For an example here is one of the 20 or so mini-games, taken from the hasbro documentation that isn't actually as promised on their site:
Find the hiding hermit crab!
Three hermit crabs will pop
out of their shells but one will
be a different color. Move
the arrow with the left
button to choose the shell he
is hiding in. Press the right
button to select that shell.
Find the hiding hermit crab
twelve times to win the game!
Choose the wrong shell three
times and you lose."
If that seems rather confusing that is because it is, although actually looking through the instructions which we have printed off, those are some of the clearer ones. As a 40 year old, hopefully fairly intelligent adult, I can't understand how to play this game even with it front of me, even taking into account that children are normally much better at these things, the mini-games just don't work. They are all a bit bizarre, with goals like chasing birds of fire hydrants or guessing bank safe combinations. For your average 6-8 year old at whom this is aimed... probably not going to work. Some of the games are just weird - one involves making a mouse balance on a log - not that you can tell it is a mouse or a log unless you have the elusive additional instructions, and the limitations of very pixellated graphics make this way too ambitious in every way.
There are a couple of games such as rowing or catching apples that are fairly intuitive but in the main the games are frustrating and a waste of time for all concerned.
So the mini games are pretty well awful.
That said my daughter does still love this item and enjoys the other aspect of the game, making her pet wander around or "brushing" it or pressing the little button on the side to play with it. She has enjoyed trying to find the 10 pets and being rewarded with a fanfare, but tends to sit out the mini games which results in her onscreen panda shaking his head and her mother trying and failing to play them, even with the instructions.
So a mixed bag.
For what it is this toy is probably still alright. If your child is a "Littlest Pet Shop" fan - this was our first encounter with the brand - they may love this. I don't particularly think it has been well designed with children in mind, however, and though it hasn't got "landfill" printed all over it, it probably should quite frankly. For a stocking filler or birthday present it is acceptable, just. I wouldn't pay much more for rather badly executed and dated technology. I won't be rushing out to buy more littlest pet shop items, my daughter has made the most of this toy, but it is not something I would choose to buy myself. All in all it is over complicated for what could be a simple toy.
That link: http://www.tigertoys.com/common/images/news/