Years ago, technology went through a phase where everyone disregarded the real cats and dogs of the world, opting for a virtual alternative instead. Tiny gadgets dangling from key chains replaced kittens and puppies, requiring very little care or attention to keep them alive. And while the world has generally dismissed such a virtual trance, MewSim by Dynamic Pixels revives the basic concept, bringing the virtual pet cat to your portable Apple device, adding a few new features that you never experienced with your former key chain kittens.
Users will initially have to create a new pet, choosing the cat’s color, name and sex. Your cat will then appear in its virtual apartment, which you can later decorate for the cat’s (and your) entertainment. The cat will prowl and pounce around the apartment, whether you are watching or not, so you have to check in on a regular basis to care for your new friend, unlike old virtual pets, which were basically confined to a single screen. While your cat often expresses its mood or hunger status through its actions, one of your rooms also has a yellow note posted to the wall, which will monitor your new kitten’s hunger, thirst and happiness status.
Users are provided with a given amount of credits to spend on food, water, toys and other such goods. However, what comes as the biggest conundrum is that, when one has spent what very few credits they do have, the only way to gain more seems to be through a direct in-app purchase. Though I did not actually proceed to do so at this point, for fear of spending an unnecessary $1.99 on credits that will help me feed my fake cat, it seems users must spend actual cash within MewSim to keep their virtual cat fed, happy and alive. The only “endless” product is water!
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this seems a bit absurd. Food and such necessities used to be free for the virtual pets of yesteryear. Why not simply charge a flat fee for the application itself instead of price gouging unknowing users? No one in their right mind will develop enough of an attachment to their virtual kitten that they will willingly shell out unnecessary money on an application they initially thought was free just to keep the thing alive. (This bit of trickery must be where the developer hopes to make their money, it seems.)
Of course, MewSim does offer two mini-games, Aquaphone and Cat and Mouse, which do make the concept more enticing. Users can even trade cats with their friends via Bluetooth if they so desire. However, I do believe that a cat that goes without toys becomes unhappy, and one that goes unfed for a long period of time eventually dies, so any progress made on taming and training your fake feline will all be for nothing when you discover you cannot (and will not) afford to keep this cartoon character alive. I think it best to invest your money in a real, live cat that will exist physically and provide you with the love and health benefits of owning an actual pet. And I’m sure the actual animal will be just as interesting and humorous as this “comic interactive simulator” we’ve got here.
MewSim [iTunes Link] requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer to speed up the publication of this review.