Zhu Zhu Pets
If you have young children at home, then no doubt you’ve heard of Zhu Zhu Pets. In fact, it is likely that you fight your way through the store after store in December trying to find Mr. Squiggles to wrap as special gifts under the tree. If you do not have children, then maybe you will understand when I say that Zhu Zhu Pets is flaming Me Elmo products of Christmas 2009. A hot toy in high demand. So it’s only natural to expect that a best-selling toy will come to the iPhone. Is there an extremely popular toy that automatically turns into a great iPhone game? Not necessarily.
First of all, for those of you who don’t know, Zhu Zhu Pets is an electronic toy hamster. They look, feel, and act like live animals, but you don’t have all the mess (and you never have to buy any hamster food). Toy creatures are less popular when they react to their environment with more than 40 different sound effects. It is basically a toy replacement for a pet. (I like live animals myself, but I have to admit there is something appealing about not having to clean up after a naturally messy little rodent).
Now that you know Zhu Zhu Pets is for children, you should not be surprised that the attractive games for iPhone are the same fan base. It is important to keep this in mind when evaluating games. I am sure that the few people playing the iPhone version will be forgiven of some of its flaws, because they love their little Zhu Zhu Pets. They won’t be annoyed that the little animated hamster in iPhone games is very small and barely recognizes being a hamster at all. They will just love that they can make Mr. Squiggles roll around Zhu Zhu-Ville in his adventure ball, working their way around the maze of obstacles.
Zhu Zhu Pets is a classic platformer game like Mario Brothers. Game designers have done a good job of incorporating the iPhone’s accelerometer into gaming. Control your hamster-in-a ball, as easy as tilting the iPhone from the side. When he stuck, then you “flick” the screen to make him jump. Although at first, I found this sentence a clever combination of controls, after repeatedly flicking the screen, your fingers get a little sore. I couldn’t help but think that this might bother some of the younger kids after a while. You cannot avoid flicking the screen either. Many times for each level, Mr. Squiggles gets stuck and the only way to get him out is to shake the iPod until he dropped the stick, and then make him jump out of his “trap” by flicking. Instead of coins, you are holding ‘veggies’ (like carrots and lettuce) to keep him full Squiggles energy throughout the game. There are some interesting obstacles to avoid such as goo’s webs and globs, but for the most part this is a very standard platformer with nothing new to add to this category. The sound is absolutely tedious as well. The music is so repetitive that I had to turn down the sound so that I could bear to keep playing.
So while in the end, Zhu Zhu Pets is a very standard platformer, I’m sure fans of toys won’t take care. If you’re a mom looking for a game to download to keep your little ones occupied, then Zhu Zhu Pets will definitely fit the bill. You may have to teach them how to properly “flick” the phone to make Mr. Squiggles jump, but for the most part they will enjoy navigating the animated hamsters out of the maze.