My Summer: Dead. Jurassic World: Alive!

Did you guys know about my borderline unhealthy obsession with Jurassic Park and dinosaurs? I just realized JW releases the same weekend I was supposed to visit home and guess which thing I’m choosing?

On Wednesday, I finally got a release notification for Jurassic World: Alive! and I’m just now coming up for air.

Basically, JWA takes what made Pokemon Go great and makes it so much better. You wander around the real world and encounter dinosaurs along the way. When you see one you want, tap it to initiate a mini game where you shoot DNA collecting darts from a drone. The range options are pretty great. The dino doesn’t have to be within your circle, but the battery life on your drone lasts longer the closer you are. On my way to work, I changed my route to catch a velociraptor on 9th Street. You can see how much battery you’ll have before you launch the drone. Once the drone is up, aim the crosshairs at the moving dot on the creature to collect DNA samples, which allow you to create and evolve your dinosaurs. So unlike pokemon, I don’t have a bunch of the same creatures junking up my inventory.

Collect enough DNA samples from a species, you head into the lab to create your dinosaur. Some are rarer than others and require more DNA to create. Level up enough and you can create HYBRID DINOSAURS.

You’ll want to keep an adequate dart supply for drone hunting, you spin supply drops. Sometimes you get cash or coins as well that you can use to evolve your dinos or speed up incubators earned from battle.

Yep. When you’re not hunting for DNA, you can pit your flock against randomly matched players. Obviously every creature has it’s own attack and defense style – smaller ones like dilophosaurus and velociraptor are super fast with high attack strikes, but low HP and defense. Some of the big carnivores will counterattack. Herbivores have higher defense and some have stunning attacks. You can have a mix of 8 dinosaurs in your lineup, but once in battle they’re randomized to a set of 4 you can use. I think this randomization goes a long way for keeping matches as balanced as possible

The battle objective is to defeat three of the opponents dinosaurs. When you do, a JP medallion at the top keeps score. The first to three wins! Toppling your opponents earns you coins and incubators that take from 15 mins to 8 hours (the highest one I’ve seen so far) to mature. Opening incubators nets you cash, darts, and rare dino DNA to help strengthen your line up. You can use cash to speed up the time.

The AR feature is one of the best I’ve experienced. I find it endlessly amusing to bring my brood to life in MY world. Here’s a dilophosaurus and a nundasuchus in my office, a majungasaurus asking some folks for money in Tompkins Square Park, and an allosarus picking up my MealPal at 5 Napkin Burger. The graphics and details are pretty insane.

It’s a hell of a battery drainer, but I’m enjoying it so far. Now I have an excuse to get outside and wander new neighborhoods with Muldoon. Because I can’t go hunting dinosaurs without Muldoon to protect me!

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Let Sleeping Tamagotchi Lie

Summer of ’97 squealed open like the garage door storefronts on the hundreds of kitschy shops on the Wildwood Boardwalk, ushering in the era of the Tamagotchi and its many knockoffs (my favorite was Dinkie Dino). They were our pre-smartphone digital addiction. I spent hours keeping mine alive and subsequently mourning its angelic avatar when it inevitably died. My middle school swiftly banned the keychain-toys. I haven’t thought about them much since then. Apparently, My Tamagotchi Forever launched in March, but I saw it featured on the app store on Tuesday and gave it a download. It was not to last forever.

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The tutorial was all the dose of nostalgia I needed. I got to care for the best character right off the bat. I learned how to force him to poop, feed him chocolate, and play the simple mini-games to keep him happy (and tire him out). Then he went outside to play soccer alone eternally and live out his days as an NPC. Around this time, I lost interest in the game.

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There are 4 mini-games were you can earn coins, but they don’t add up quickly enough to both feed your demanding tamagotchi and upgrade the amenities in his little world. As you upgrade amenities, you unlock “Memorable Moments” which are basically photo ops for your pets. They don’t even seem all that memorable or even enjoyable.

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Completing photo pages unlocks outfits. Of course you can purchase coins and gems to progress faster, but the reward isn’t worth it (unless you REALLY want to dress your tamagotchi like a weird magician).

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Food is expensive for the earn rate. Pets are picky on what they want to eat. You can feed them anything, but it looks like you get a bonus if you give them what they want. One demanded nothing but french fries and it cost 45 coins to fill him up. Another demanded nothing but broccoli and then turned into an unsettling Nyan Starmie with chronic constipation.

Another weird thing – once your tamagotchi evolves, its former iteration sticks around. Your previous pets populate the town, forever trapped in a memorable moment. Occasionally they gift you coins so they feel like their lives still have some purpose.

It’s not the tamagotchi experience I wanted it to be. The mobile update featuring too-bright colors and chunky buttons feels insultingly childish, as do the mini-games. If you’re looking for modern relic of your digital pet days, install Pix on your widget screen and transform your iPhone into the little plastic egg you secretly miss.

My Hopes for Zelda Mobile

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I don’t consider myself a mobile gamer. I have some time-killers I play on the train, but I still struggle to see mobile gaming as “real gaming.”

But The Legend of Zelda is making the leap to mobile devices later this year and I’ll be on board for that. MORE ZELDA! Still, this version needs to feel as big as the franchise, especially on the coattails of Breath of the Wild, while adopting a mobile formula that encourages habitual use. Some features and functions that I’d love to see include:

Daily puzzles. The Legend of Zelda is legendary for its challenging puzzles- there are 120 shrines to solve in Breath of the Wild. With the breadth of functionality offered by mobile devices from touch screens to gyroscopic/movement-based controls, puzzle innovation is nearly endless and can be varied enough to not feel repetitive. Give me a new challenge every day

Real World integration. Hyrule is a HUGE place and I want to feel like I’m exploring it in the real world. Much like walking hatches eggs in Pokemon Go, I’d like my daily physical activity to translate to my mini hero in-game. Do I need to walk 3 miles to get to Zora’s Domain and unlock new puzzles? Bring me my running shoes and let’s go on a quest!

Link as a secondary character. I’d be less critical of it as a Zelda game and more delighted I get to play alongside my favorite characters and themes. Let me customize my own sprite who interacts with Link in my own story. Maybe Link is my silent sensei, training me to protect Hyrule so he can retire. Or maybe he needs me to rescue him! I love playing as Link, but I’m craving my own adventure. Mobile would be a perfect platform to try this kind of alternative story formula since it’s not a traditional vehicle for Zelda games and players’ expectations for mobile games are vastly different than console. There could even be an opportunity for microtransactions to buy new character features, clothes or accessories.

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Selfies! It’s mobile! Come on. Those Wind Waker selfies were adorable and hilarious. Nintendo could drive engagement and promotion with a selfie feature that’s easily sharable to social.

What do you want to see in a mobile Zelda game?