Before Nintendogs and other pet-raising simulators became a smash hit, and before Digimon reached the phase where fans would argue whether or not it was a rip-off of Pokemon, there were games like Hatchi: a simple, digital/virtual pet that occupied small keychains and electronic toys bearing black-and-white dot-matrix screens. You would basically hatch and raise your pet by doing everything one might do to a real pet: naming it, feeding it, playing with it, etc.
Hatchi follows the same basic idea, and even takes on a similar appearance, emulating the dot-matrix look. Performing an action is as simple as selecting it and watching an animation play out. Feeding your pet causes a hamburger to appear, and you watch it disappear one bite at a time, though the pet doesn’t really interact with the burger directly. Playing, represented by a baseball and bat, sees a ball bounce next to the pet, while reading to it shows pages of a book turning. And when you’re done, you can let it sleep to regain the energy spent doing these things– just press the sleep button, and the black and white colors invert to depict night time as Z’s rise from the snoozing pet.
Sounds easy enough.
It’s charming enough, even though you’re doing quite little. Incidentally, you might be prohibited from performing some actions for reasons unknown. Ours is currently rather hungry, but we could only feed it the one burger today, and we have no idea why we cannot feed it any more.
Depending on how you raise your Hatchi, it will take on new traits, making it more interesting than the blank, blob-like template you begin with after hatching. Arms, ears, horns, wings, and such will start to sprout, giving it a more visually-distinct appearance and making it something you can truly call your own.
Since this type of virtual pet first came on the scene, however, the genre has grown considerably, and advanced just as much. Some versions, such as Nintendogs, often have you raising actual animals or more detailed creatures, often with a lot more animation and interaction that feels like you’re actually raising and taking care of a virtual creature. Others, often website-based, feature communities as well. As a result, the Hatchi experience can feel relatively primitive, to say nothing of short– doing all you can do with your Hatchi in one session doesn’t take more than a few minutes.
You cute little devil.
We won’t slight anyone who appreciates the simplicity of the original style of virtual pets; we love oldschool gaming, so we can relate in that respect. At the same time, though, a game like Hatchi may be a hard sell for those introduced to the concept through more advanced software, even when it’s $0.99 in iTunes store.
Hatchi is good at what it does, there is no question about that. The problem is, it doesn’t do very much by design, and that’s alright if you’re looking to recapture the experience you might have had in your youth (assuming that you’re in your 20s now). So for nostalgia purposes, perhaps even if you’ve never played with any sort of virtual pet before, we do recommend Hatchi. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to stick to your Nintendogs, PetVille, NeoPets, or whatever option you may have chosen.