Kids Corner Review: Virtual **** (fish)


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Jul 5, 2008
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Quick note. The application developer has created a large number of virtual pets - dragon, dog, cat, fish, bird, etc. I am reviewing the virtual fish. The game play/interaction is the same for all of them, so presumably they will all have the same rating.

Okay, I remember when the...Tamogutchi (?) first came out in the early 90's. At first I thought it was dumb, but then I got one....and it was still mostly dumb, but somewhat entertaining. The idea of a virtual pet that you need to take care can be fun, but a little block pixel creature wasn't that interesting.

But now they have evolved. And the various applications on the iPhone show that. I decided to try Virtual Fish, to see if my daughter would like it.

When you start, you first choose a name for your pet. I must say, this small, insignificant feature is a nice start - you get to personalize it right away. Unfortunately, the name I choose for my fish (Bob) didn't work, because the name must be at least four characters long! Sheesh - so Bobby it is.

The first problem I noticed with this app is there are no instructions! My fish started out looking very sad (odd that they would start out sad), and I had no idea what the various buttons did, or how to make him happy. After some fiddling around, I got my fish happy.

There are five buttons for interaction with your fish - food, "intelligent", fun, hygiene, and "skill". I am not sure how applicable some of those are to a fish, but oh well. The buttons are not initially self explanatory...well, some of them are. The food icon looks like a plant, but they "play" button looks like a bubble?? I couldn't tell what the hygiene button was at first, but it was a towel. The intelligent and skill button are a beaker and a tennis racket, respectively.

The last button is a heart button that can tell you the current status of you fish. Aside from the fact that the status is written in weird italics, everything is okay. It lists each category as a percentage. If the percentage drops too low, then the fish is unhappy. There is also a "submit" button - but without knowing what I am submitting, and to whom, I didn't try it.

Without instructions, it was (and still is) very hard to figure out what you need to do. Sometimes when I hit an icon for interaction, I don't increase the percentage at all! Sometimes I do. Presumably this may have to do with how recently I hit the button, but without instructions, I can't be sure.

Also, there is no helpful information about how fast something "drains". Do you need to play with your fish every hour? Every half hour? Presumably the values drain even when not in the program? The game involves a lot of trial and error...and truthfully, most people don't have enough time to figure the game out - even if they have enough time to actually play with a virtual pet.

From reading some online review, I saw that it is possible for your fish to die - it would be nice to know this, and how to prevent it! Will the fish die is any category gets to low - or just something like energy or hygiene?

This program seems like a fun idea for kids, but I see two main drawbacks. One, they will not have the interest in trying to figure out the program, nor will they have continual access to the iPhone to care for their pet. So of course, much like real life, it will be up to the parents for caring for the pet.

My main problem with this application is what appears to be little time spent perfecting it. It is cool that there are a range of "pets" available, but it seems like the only real difference in them is the image. It would be nice to have a little more specialized interaction that you don't have to end up improving "intelligent" on fish (while it may make sense to do so with a dog, for example).

Lastly, the actual interactions with the pet aren't really...well...impressive at all. When you hit a button, you simply get a quick animation of the fish doing something -eating food, playing tennis, washing itself with a towel, etc. Even if you aren't increasing the percentage at all, you still get that animation (c'mon programmers, if you aren't increasing the percentage, at least have an animation saying something like "try again later!").

Pros: Nice graphics (to a point)

Cons: No instructions, interaction types didn't make sense

All in all, unless this app (this group of apps) get a major overhaul - starting with some sort of instructions, I would say avoid it entirely. The interaction is odd for the animal I choose, so it looks like the company simply slapped a new picture on the program for each animal type. Unless you want to spend the time figuring this out, stay away. Each of the pets is cheap ($.99) but still isn't worth it. One and a half stars out of five.

Rating scale:

* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benfits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating.

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Steffi Silva Oliviera