When I tell a person that one of my hobbies is playing with and collecting Tamagotchi, their first response is usually something incredulous like, “Those are still around?” It drives me bonkers, because it feels like an immediate nullification of the hundreds of dollars I’ve spent collecting these virtual pets from overseas.
I most recently dropped some cash on the newest Tamagotchi to hit U.S. shores, the Tamagotchi Pix. It’s technically the successor to the Tamagotchi On, released in 2018 in the U.S., and it’s priced the same, around $99. That might seem like a dumb amount to pay for what many are quick to peg as a reprised nostalgic fad. And maybe the Tamagotchi Pix is not for you. But it’s definitely for die-hard Tamagotchi fans, of which there are so many globally that Bandai launched the device in Spain first before bringing it to the U.S.
If there’s one thing you should know about Tamagotchi, it’s that each tama, translated to “egg” from Japanese, is its own game, though there are fundamental similarities that unite the franchise. Unlike the Tamagotchi On, which connects to your smartphone (or a Windows PC) via Bluetooth, the Tamagotchi Pix is entirely offline. The only way to properly advance in the game is through scanning QR codes on other Pix units. As a result, I’ve made a few new Tamagotchi-collecting internet friends since the Pix arrived. It has made the doldrums of the workday more bearable. And it solidified how much more fun the game would be if I could only get my real-life pals to play.
WHAT IS IT?
An electronic virtual pet
Familiar gameplay; easier to figure out what the Tama likes; camera abilities add new tricks
Eats through batteries with camera use; touch buttons are finicky and frustrating
Perhaps the most exciting part of the Tamagotchi Pix is that it takes a different approach to interaction. This one has a camera on the back and touch buttons on the front. The camera is for shooting photos of the real world and extracting colour from objects for the different mini-games. And the touch buttons allow for swiping, so there’s more actual hands-on interaction than in past versions.
The Pix itself is a bit wider than the Tamagotchi On. The top of the device acts as a sort of camera shutter button that emits a satisfying click each time you press down. The Pix also sports a 64-bit colour display, which has varying degrees of brightness. It’s currently available in pink and purple, with blue and green variants expected down the line.
If you’re especially curious about the innards, noted Tamagotchi collector Mr. Blinky recently published a Twitter teardown of the Tamagotchi Pix. It has a GPL32610B chip from General Plus, which is an ARM 7 CPU.
How to Play
The general gameplay on the Tamagotchi Pix is the same as usual: Take care of your pet’s basic needs like feeding and bathing it, and then perform a series of tasks until you figure out what your Tamagotchi loves. You can do this throughout the day if you’re able, or hire a sitter for 100 Gotchi Points, the in-game currency procured through playing mini-games, to help take care of your pet while you’re busy at work. At night, the Tamagotchi also sleeps while you do.
At the start of the game, you’ll have to choose your preferences from a pre-populated list to determine your first Tamagotchi career. Based on my results, my first Tamagotchi, Lovelitchi, was into cooking, and that was one of the training rooms offered up as part of her education. There’s also a performance room for practicing Tama-thespians, as well as a customisation room, which I’m assuming is for the Tamagotchi interior designers. It’s a fun game of chance to try and unlock each training room.
You’ll know your Tamagotchi loves something when it sprouts up red and pink hearts on the screen. It usually occurs when interacting with an item, putting on an accessory, or eating a specific kind of food. The goal is to repeat those actions ad infinitum — use the same things, feed it the same food, and engage in certain activities to grow your little monster’s happiness metre. After four days, it will fly back to its home planet to report on its experience with you, making way for the next-generation egg to hatch and maintain the cycle. You can choose to say goodbye and start over with a new egg, complete with a new set of likes and career trajectories. Or, if you like your Tamagotchi combination and the groove you both have going on, you can keep them around until you’re ready to bid farewell.
The best way to advance in the game is to scan QR codes to unlock various items, meals, snacks, and wearable accessories. The more you discover, the more you can determine your Tamagotchi’s favourites and release them from the confines of the Pix’s 1.5 x 2.4 x 2.8 inch-sized plastic chassis — virtually speaking, of course. The QR codes are also how you meet up with other Tamagotchi for playdates. Socialising your Tamagotchi can help maintain its happiness metre.
Since this is a game aimed at kids ages 6 and up, this type of farming mechanism works for children who go to school, where chances of physically encountering another Tamagotchi Pix device are higher. It’s much harder to come by an adult with a similar device, probably because of the stigma of playing games in middle age (it’s a stupid stigma, by the way). But also, I work from home and never see anyone for days, much less anyone with a Tamagotchi Pix.
Bandai has additional plans to make missions available via QR codes through its website, which will help current users download new items and gifts they can’t get from merely exchanging with friends. It’ll be interesting to see how this particular mechanism expands, too. I am personally invested in how the community might find a way to use QR codes beyond their advertised use. Half the fun of playing with a connected Tamagotchi like the On or the Pix is staying tuned for what the community unearths after all the launch fanfare is over.
— Florence “U4EA” Ion (@Ohthatflo) July 12, 2021
I needed to acquire QR codes to review the device, so I headed to the internet. I can’t imagine that Bandai had entirely envisioned Twitter accounts and Instagram posts devoted to hosting smartphone photos of Tamagotchi QR codes, but that’s the best way to share one if you aren’t seeing people in person. It’s all I’ve been experiencing non-stop since I fired up the game nearly two weeks ago. It reminded me of the beginning days of Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch. Players were posting photos of their islands en masse. And before users were able to share custom designs internally within the game, they figured out how to upload new furniture and items using external QR codes from the Nintendo 3DS version of Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Thanks to the devout users who took time to post photos of their QR codes online, I got Lovelitchi to a state of bliss by encouraging her to play the violin and eat cereal for breakfast. I played a rousing round of ball with a new friend in Spain and enjoyed a plate of fries from Mr. Blinky. Finding new QR codes to interact with became a welcome distraction in the middle of the workday, with apologies to my editors. And it made me feel like I’m a part of a tight-knit community, even though we’re all technically disconnected and going through the motions to keep our little aliens alive.
Tamagotchi Gets Touchy
The rear camera and touch controls are the marquee gimmicks of the Tamagotchi Pix. They’re exciting additions to the gameplay, which has remained decidedly static in its multiple-decade history. However, I never had an issue going from model to model because the game mechanism remains the same. You can reliably use the A and B buttons, or the first two buttons, to navigate the interface and command actions. Use the C button, or the last button, to go back or cancel an entry.
The Tamagotchi Pix uses the same button mechanism but with touch button-pads instead, and it’s super finicky to use. More than a few times, I had to put the unit down on the table and reset my fingers because of frustration. There were constant instances where the pad wouldn’t register my touch, and I’d have to change how I was cradling the Pix. I figured out a way to hold the device with my left hand to make it work. But I’m right-handed, so you can imagine how playing it this way harshed my Tamagotchi vibe.
The only interaction I enjoyed with the touch buttons was petting the Tamagotchi. You can long-press B for the virtual pet to come close to the screen, then slide your thumb across the three buttons in a stroking motion to give it the love it deserves. The Tamagotchi will animate in accordance to how it’s feeling. You can even press down on the camera shutter to snap a screenshot.
I enjoyed using the camera part of the Tamagotchi Pix the most, even if its resolution reminds me of the flip phone I had more than decade ago. With the freestyle shooting mechanism, I snapped photos of my kid and Lovelitchi. There’s a faux little “social network” inside the Tamagotchi Pix world — accessible through your Tamagotchi’s smartphone, naturally — and I’d post those pictures for consideration. At least in the Pix, I don’t have to worry about my daughter’s face being used to train surveillance devices.
You can also use the camera to grab a colour palette from the outside world, which is essential when you’re cooking and crafting. Specifically, cooking requires mixing two colours to create different dishes. I discovered a fan-made colour guide on the Tamagotchi sub-Reddit, which has helped exponentially in unlocking recipes.
Unfortunately, there is no way to offload the photos you take with the Tamagotchi Pix to your computer or smartphone, which is a bit of a bummer. It would be neat to populate a QR code and have your smartphone scan and upload the photo, regardless of the resolution.
Stock Up on Batteries
I would be remiss (and frankly, irresponsible) if I didn’t mention that I went through nearly three sets of batteries during my two weeks of testing. The Tamagotchi Pix takes two AAA batteries. I went through six AAA batteries by the time I started penning this review. At least when you take them out, the game goes into standby mode, saving any progress until you’re ready to resume.
Most serious colour-screen Tamagotchi players invest in their own set of rechargeable alkaline batteries because of how much the colour screen sucks up power. But I could go weeks on a set of batteries with my Tamagotchi On models. The camera seems to be the major culprit, as the more you scan QR codes, the faster the Pix seems to burn through batteries.
Is It Worth The Novelty?
The Tamagotchi Pix is an exciting addition to this family of virtual pets simply because it introduces a new way to play. Despite the battery-hogging camera and hard-to-press buttons, it means that Bandai is still committed to the little egg-shaped toy that generates so much joy. However, it’s only a success if the community embraces the evolution.
I’m not quite sure how long I’ll play this version of Tamagotchi. The appeal for me with the Tamagotchi On was its hackability and the fact that I could customise it and install fan-made patches to get around some of the more annoying parts of trying to keep it alive. I certainly wished I had a hack in the instances when the touch buttons were not responsive and my Tama was on the verge of death. At least with the community-provided QR codes, I’m able to stock up on unlockable items and goodies in the game. But I already see some concerns sprouting up on social media at the replayability of Tamagotchi Pix. Here’s hoping the “quests” that Bandai will push through later this summer will add a bit more cohesiveness to the Tamagotchi Pix.
If you’re looking for a new desk toy, there are worse ways to blow $99. Remember that a bit of playtime is good for the brain and the soul — why not use that time petting a virtual animal?