There is poop everywhere and my Tamagotchi is very unhappy, beeping its sad, plaintive beeps at me until I clean it up. And I’m trying. I select the option “clean” and I keep somehow backing out of the menu over and over again until finally I get the right screen. Then it’s a few seconds (or even a minute) of frantic swiping at the device to get it to actually clean up the adorable cartoon turds. I’m on my second Tama creature in a week with the Tamagotchi Pix. The first died in a pile of its own poop.
The Tamagotchi Pix ($60), which ships next month, is the latest version of Bandai’s iconic virtual pet. The twist this time is a camera on the backside; the top of the unit is the shutter, basically a cracked shell lid on the egg casing. Like the Tamagotchi On before it, the unit is larger than the typical Tamagotchi handheld, at 2.5 inches tall with a 1.5-inch color LCD screen.
The idea is that when you choose to “explore” with your Tamagotchi, you point the unit’s camera around you and it samples a color from your environment and generates a new friend for your creature to meet. It matches the tint you pointed the device at, so you can meet someone who’s green or red or yellow or blue. However, the camera isn’t great indoors, so a lot of the colors I sampled were…brownish. Brownish blue and brownish pink and the warm yellow walnut of my desk.
Another feature that uses the camera is the eat menu. The usual options of fridge and restaurant are there but now they’re joined by “cook.” You’re instructed to point the camera at two different food items, though it doesn’t have the computing power to determine whether what it’s looking at is, in fact, food. I’ve pointed it at my desk and my laptop and the myriad boxes around me to pull up blue and purple and other unnatural shades. You can store the food for later or have your Tama eat it right there and then. Every new dish you concoct is added to the recipe list in your notebook.
It’s not my fault you’re badly designed!
Everything else is pretty standard Tamagotchi caretaking activities: playing in the yard, cleaning the room, bath time and going out to visit the arcade or a shop to buy more items to play with. There’s an in-game phone but it’s all fake virtual interaction; the Pix lacks Bluetooth or infrared for communicating with other Tama units. You’ll get fake social media likes from your in-game friends which, in a world of Twitch and one-button screenshot sharing, is a bit of a letdown. I’ve taken some good pictures of my creature but I have no way to share them except to point my phone at the Tamagotchi screen.
You’re probably thinking, for the most part it still sounds like a pretty typical Tamagotchi, so why the poop problems? Well, though the camera is a physical button, the three buttons on the front… aren’t. Instead of the usual clicky A, B and C knobs the unit has three depressions in its plastic casing that (I guess) are supposed to be touch-sensitive. Except they’re rather unreliable. I’ll try to hit “B” to confirm a selection and instead it keeps flipping through the menu, or even backs out of it entirely.
The new button style is what allows swiping action to work. If you want to pet your Tama you can pet it by sliding your thumb back and forth. To give the creature medicine, cover the screen and then slide your hand up. And to poop-scoop, you go into the “clean” menu then swipe from right to left. Then swipe again because it didn’t work the first time. Then swipe again because it didn’t work the second time either.
Doing anything with my Tamagotchi Pix took a few tries, which is even more stressful when your little pet is beeping frantically at you. I’m trying, hold your little digital horses! It’s not my fault you’re badly designed! I really think the basic concept of the Tamagotchi Pix, that of using color sampling to inform your in-game activities, is quite fun (and something I’ve seen in other recent toys). But these new buttons make this egg impossible to love.