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As a teacher I vowed that I would never, ever allow my children to be swept away by silly, expensive school crazes. So here I am sitting by the computer, Tamagotchi at the side of me, checking that it has enough food and love to keep it happy and healthy, and making sure that it doesn't need the toilet.
This eating, pooing piece of plastic is the ideal starter pet. It makes no real mess, very little noise but it allows a humane experiment into how long children will really love and care for something. Of course it is not real; this little device is roughly 6x5 cm, made of plastic and fits neatly into your hand.
The Tamagotchi Connexion, created by Bandai, is a re-invention of its nineties sibling. Essentially it is a very basic computer game, with a blobby inanimate object hat bounces around on the screen. It has a large screen and three small buttons which allow you to toggle between icons and control various functions. Unfortunately there are no labels on the buttons, and it really is necessary to read some of the instructions, something I hate doing. The Tamagotchi makes simple beep noises to alert you to its various needs. It also makes a very simple tune when you do something kind, such as make it feel better or clear its little accidents up!
The clever thing about the Tamagotchi Connexion is that it has an infra red device inbuilt, which allows different Tamagotchi owners to 'connect' (hence the name) and this increases the virtual fun!
~~ The Packaging ~~ So, you have bought your very own Tamagotchi and they first thing you do is rip open the packaging. Wrong! Armed with a pair of nail scissors I carefully cut across the bottom of the plastic package, which flung back and cut my finger!
~~ Starting off ~~ On the back of the Tamagotchi is a strip of plastic by the batteries, to stop the game spontaneously starting in the packaging. To 'wake up' your new toy you pull the tab, and within seconds things spring to life. You put in the time, date and the owners birthday, as apparently your new friend may want to help you celebrate it, and soon a little egg appears on the screen. As the egg hatches, you are filled with the excitement (?) of finding out if you have a boy or a girl and choosing a name for your new bundle of joy. Your name is sadly limited to 5 characters, and there is a warning that it can't be changed, another lesson in pet management!
The instructions are actually fairly useful, if you can be bothered to read them, but in essence you need to understand the function of the three buttons that are directly under the screen. In the instructions they are labelled (from left to right) as
A Select B Execute C Cancel
However they are not labelled on the Tamagotchi which would have been useful.
~~ Growing ~~ Tamagotchis grow at different rates, but they go through the same life processes as animals, egg to baby, on to child, then teenager and finally into adulthood. The evolution of the Tamagotchi depends on your ability to nurture it, so no pressure there then! In order to help your Tamagotchi grow into a nice adult you have to praise and discipline. I love the idea of children having to discipline a computer game and making it have some time out.
~~ The Health meter ~~ Selecting the Health meter, using button A, gives you an insight into the nature of your Tamagotchi's wellbeing. It allows you to toggle through and see if it is hungry, happy and gives facts about the age, sex, weight, and generation. The generation allows you to keep an eye on the reproduction of your Tamagotchi, for if another egg appears, then you get into the next generation!
~~ Select Button ~~ By pressing the select button you can toggle through the features such as toilet, food, medicine, lights, games and discipline
~~ Execute Button ~~ This executes the function selected by the first button. For example in the food feature you can choose meal, snack or treat and by pressing the middle button it gives the Tamogotchi its meal.
~~ Cancel Button ~~ As the name suggests, this cancels all other actions.
~~ Games ~~ As the Tamagotchi grows up and develops through life, there are different games that it can play. They are basic, but they earn the Tamogotchi money which enables it to buy treats from the shop.
~~ Connexion ~~ Now this is the bit that really causes playground rows. The simple 'do you want to connect?' from the mouths of babes can escalate into full scale war at the sound of rejection. Connecting Tamagotchis is easy. Using the Infra Red sensor, you select the appropriate icon, hold it next to another Tamagotchi and select game or present. After several connections relationships may improve and develop and generation two may be on the way before you know it!
~~ Value for money? ~~ At £12.99 this is not the cheapest toy on the market, but I have to say that it has kept many children, and some adults amused for hours. There are some nice features of this new Tamagotchi, perhaps the best is that you can pause it, not a feature that I remember from the older one. Also you are able to turn the sound off. This is useful, but means that you are not alerted, so your little friend may have had a poo and will be sitting there getting very grumpy that you haven't cleared it up!
~~ Age Range ~~ On the package are the words 6+. I would suggest that this is fairly accurate. Although reading skills are kept to a minimum by use of icons, there are decisions to be made, e.g. do you give it a meal or a treat, and these do require basic reading skills. At the age of 6 the instructions would need to be read by a very kind adult and help will be required initially to set up.
~~ Addictive???~~ I think this very much depends on the nature of the person playing it. As with all crazes many children have got Tamagotchis, some are very take it or leave it others care deeply for their new friend.
~~ Availability ~~ Many toy shops have these in stock, from Toyrus, Woolworths to Amazon. The price does vary £11.99 in Amazon, £12.49 in Toyrus, to £12.99 in Woolworths.
There are also many different colours and availability also depends on the colour.
This is a useful little toy for playing in the car, or maybe even taking into hospital. It is also the latest craze!