What’s a developer to do after building a successful To Do list app? That’s what Clear developer Impending asked itself before embarking on the journey of what would become Hatch, a Tamagotchi-style app that’s been in development for at least the better part of a year, and that manages to create a brand and character that’s highly lovable right out of the gate.
I’ve been lucky enough to have been an early participant in the beta testing of Hatch, an app for iPhone that will set you back just $2 beginning today on the App Store. The ‘game’ features an adorable character known as a Fugu, which actually does bear a passing resemblance to the self-inflating spiky Japanese fish which shares its name. This is a land animal, however, and it’s not at all spiky – in fact, it looks quite cuddly. You may be familiar with its maximally cute visage already, as it appears in a Facebook sticker set, and has for many months.
The name of the app comes from the fact that at launch, you choose an egg color and briefly maintain that pre-birth vessel until a Fugu is born from it. The Fugu will then promptly start asking for food, attention, treats and more, which is probably nothing new to the virtual pet aficionado. But Hatch isn’t about reinventing the virtual pet mechanic – it’s much more about polish and execution.
Hatch is without a date one of the most finely tuned app experiences I’ve played on iOS, genre aside. But it’s also definitely the best virtual pet simulator out there. No other take on the Tamagotchi model has been able to quite so acutely awaken a sense of guilt in me for not paying attention to my pet, or a desire to stay in the app out of something beyond a sense of obligation. The reward system which offers up in-game currency and buyable items in exchange for collecting fruits that grow on trees above your pet (which also feed it) makes Hatch sort of like a baseline default app, or one that you’ll return to over and over again between doing other things whenever you have a spare moment.
In fact, the only annoyance I had in my entire time testing the game was that being on the beta meant the pet had to be reset fairly frequently. Each time I had to give up a pet to start a new one felt like a minor tragedy – your Fugu may resemble millions of others out there (customization is limited to a set number of color choices), but it still feels like it’s uniquely yours.
Hatch has the potential to be much more than just a virtual pet, with a brand that you could easily see spun out to other games, animated series’, merchandise and more. Regardless of what else it becomes, however, it’s an excellent incarnation of the virtual pet – probably the best to date, in fact.