Almost every little girl in a privileged society has requested a pony as a present at some point in her life. Unfortunately, ponies are expensive, messy and kind of mean. On the other hand, little boys often ask for puppies. That's not as far of a stretch as a pony, but it also requires training, feeding and the understanding that you will have to clean up poop. It's no wonder parents turn to pet simulators to fulfill their children's desires, and Fantastic Pets is a good way to do that.
Fantastic Pets is a combination of augmented reality where the game is playing out in your living room (similar to Eye Pet
) and motion controlled physical activities that have you "touching" your pet (similar to Kinectimals). When you and your pet are together, you can snuggle with them, give them commands like sit or fly, select an activity like fetch or just wait for your pet to suggest something via a thought bubble. The set-up makes it easy to pop into various activities, which is essential for a kids game.
The best thing about Fantastic Pets is it offers a variety of animals to choose from. At the start, you can pick from a selection of four different animals: ponies, dogs, cats and lizards. Similar to going to an animal shelter, there are five different pets with preset personalities and names. Although the name sticks with the pet forever, you're able to alter your pet's appearance thanks to the pet database.
It's the pet database that makes Fantastic Pets so much fun – the game allows you to consistently unlock new items like eye shapes, wings or horns so you can drastically change the way your pet looks. There are even new "fantastic" breeds (hence the name of the game). The "fantastic" pets are pretty crazy looking. During my time with the game I unlocked a gator hound (which turned my pooch into a horrifying lizard-like creation) and a laser hound (which turned him into something straight out of Tron). Thankfully, unlocking is appropriately simple: as you play games you'll earn gems and you can use those to get new items and activities.
Eventually you'll be able to have four pets in your virtual household, but before you can do that, you're required to level up your trainer rank. All you have to do to gain new ranks is participate in daily talent shows with your pet and perform relatively well (a.k.a. don't be dead last). Achieving new levels is a fun way to keep players interested in the game.
While the different animals and urge to unlock new items are really great, the 'game' part of Fantastic Pets can be a little irritating at times. Even getting through the starter screen was a problem -- I frantically waved my arm back and forth, which wouldn't register, but when I wiggled my hand in more of a royal wave fashion, it registered instantly. Frustration can set in when playing the activities as well. Trying to throw the ball towards the corners of the screen is also awkward and difficult to execute. When it works (which is most of the time), it's great, but there'll be times where you get stuck because you aren't performing a move the way the game wants you to.
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