Remember the Tamagotchi? If you were a parent or kid in the ‘90s, then you probably do. Here’s a refresher anyway: Tamagotchis are egg-shaped virtual pets that kids need to dote on to keep happy and healthy. Otherwise, they die and everyone is traumatized for life. Last year, Bandai America brought back the original Tamagotchi, and this year the company gave it a makeover with Tamagotchi On.
While the original Tamagotchi could grow into a handful of characters based on how well kids nurtured it, Tamagotchi On has millions of different characters. That’s right: millions. It seems like there are also millions of ways for kids to interact with the updated virtual pet because there are so many more activities than the original: It can eat at home or order different meals at a restaurant, take a bubble bath, travel to different lands, go shopping, play games, make friends, and take care of a TamaPet. The device also has a colored, backlit screen, which seems like a small feat, but it means you can finally play it in the dark while watching TV or laying in bed.
There are two games now, and kids can earn “Gotchi points,” which is the currency on Planet Tamagotchi, as they play. Just like the real world, if you want to go out to eat or buy new accessories, you have to shell out the moolah. But in this case, it’s fake money. If kids want to “pause” the game, they can drop their Tamagotchi off at the Tama Hotel, and the hotel will look after the pet.
Users can download the free companion app on a smartphone or tablet to access new games, earn points, and find items (I found a piece of cheese) that they can send to their Tamagotchi On device. The app has timely events, such as a “Halloween event” in which users can go to the digital park to meet Pumpkitchi and visit every day to receive a different present.
My favorite thing about Tamagotchi On is that multiple devices can interact with one another, making the Tamagotchi World seem way bigger than when it was limited to a single device. Kids can connect two Tamagotchi Ons by placing them head to head on a flat surface. One character will actually float out of its screen and onto the other Tamagotchi On’s screen. Both characters will interact inside one of the devices until they are ready to go back home. The characters can visit friends for a playdate, give gifts, travel together, and even get married when they’re old enough. (I tried before they were ready and got the message: “Too young to marry.”)
When the Tamagotchis are ready to put a ring on it, one of them can propose. There’s a wedding ceremony and everything. It’s the real deal. They can even have babies, but when they do, the baby takes over as the main character and you have to start over with a newborn. You can view your family tree at any time to keep track of the different generations, but you can’t switch between characters. The babies will look like a combination of the Tamagotchi’s parents for better or for worse — let’s just say that mine had a face only a mother could love.
Tamagotchi On is recommended for kids ages 6 and up, but I’d say it’s better suited for kids a few years older because more activities mean more responsibility. I found that my Tamagotchi On was harder to please than the original Tamagotchi, and I accidentally killed him. Before he dropped dead, we had a few close calls in which a grim reaper (aka a “Grim Gotchi”) hovered above him and an ambulance came to take him to the hospital, which was scary enough on its own. But when he actually kicked the bucket, a screensaver of death took over my Tamagotchi On with a ghost hovering next to a tombstone, and it was a lot. But live and let learn. I can always rehatch a new baby and play again.