The folks from Bandai recently sent me some of their latest Tamagotchi gear to have a look at.
My daughter had one of the previous generation Tamagotchis. You know what these things are right? A little device that resembles a key fob with a small display screen. The Tamagotchi “hatches”, you name the creature, and then it’s up to you to keep the thing alive and content, taking actions based on the character’s onscreen reactions. At various times, these things have been “must have” gadgets, the kind that parents kept calling toy stores to see when the next shipment was due.
There’s a lot more competition in the electronic pet space these days, including Webkinz and other more traditional toys that have incorporated a web site component to increase interactivity. Bandai is fighting back with the version 4.5 Tamagotchi. The basic premise remains the same –you’re still tending for a growing creature on a small key fob device- but they’ve expanded the capabilities from earlier versions, made the units themselves more colorful and expanded their interactive web site.
A built in transmitter/receiver allows two kids with Tamagotchis to trade items back and forth, wirelessly. The web site, TamaTown, offers Flash-based games and activities; the Tamagotchi generates an access code. Kids earn rewards that can be “downloaded” to their Tamagotchi- the device isn’t actually connected, but the web site generates a unique code that is entered into the Tamagotchi, unlocking specific items. Version 4.5 Tamagotchi users also get to see their character onscreen and can even go shopping for additional items. An interactive CD package (Windows only) is available, complete with a colorful microphone that allows kids to initiate specific tasks (such as logging onto the web site) via voice command as well as offering activities and printable graphics.
My five year olds were initially fascinated by the funky devices with the little star antennas and they enjoyed playing the games on the TamaTown web site (the color and density of the site reminds me more than a little of Richard Scarry’s Busytown), but they quickly lost interest in pushing buttons to keep the Tamagotchi appeased. In all fairness, the devices aren’t aimed at kids this young, though. My daughter, who is approaching eight, lasted a bit longer, but she eventually set it aside as well. I suspect that if one of her friends had one, the interaction between the two would have sustained interest for longer. But TamaTown was a hit.
At $16.95, a Tamagotchi isn’t a big investment, so if you have kids aged eight or over, these are certainly worth considering; even better if you have two kids in the house. And they’re pretty sturdy compared to other portable electronic devices, so they can take being toted around in a backpack. The Tamagotchi accessory pack (desktop software, microphone and mouse pad) lists at $34.99.