Bugaboo Pocket is an upcoming virtual pet game that allows you to get closer than ever to insects. For those of you who don’t have any love for the bugs of the world, this is your best opportunity to get to know them without having to get face-to-face with creepy crawlies in real life. You’ll raise various species of critters, from isopods (woodlice, rollie pollies, chucky pigs, whatever you call them regionally) to moths, study their behaviors, play games with them, and give them little hats - all the perks of having a pet. What’s not to love?
To make things even sweeter, the entire Bugaboo Pocket experience comes wrapped up in a Tamagotchi-like style. You click around the research cabin, checking into your terrarium to play with whichever bugs you’ve been cultivating, or researching facts on your computer before returning to your bugs and seeing if anything has changed. You clean up dung, feed them when they seem hungry, and play with them when they're bored, making it an incredibly cozy game. Sure, caring for an actual pet is more complex than this, but it’s still a level of responsibility that gets you emotionally attached to whatever you’ve hatched.
With a short demo now available on Steam, you can start raising your collection of minibeasts right now, and if you’re like me, before you know it, you’ll be obsessing over your isopods as if they were real. The entire indie game promises a world of creepy-crawlies on both PC and Nintendo Switch; while the demo does limit you exclusively to woodlice, it’s well worth checking out if you want to stray from the standard virtual pet experience.
A star is born
People always say that your firstborn child is your favorite, and I definitely understand why after watching my first isopod come out of its egg. After frantically clicking the round ball I assumed to be its egg and praying that something happened, I found myself face to face with a tiny, golden ‘Rubber Ducky’ isopod. When these creatures hatch, they are much smaller than their final form, and frankly, there’s not a whole lot you can do besides play a minigame and stare at them in the hopes something happens. Their heads are too small for hats, and they don’t like being fussed. But, before long, you start to see them grow.
As your creature ‘evolves’ (grows in size and its color palette changes slightly), you unlock more minigames that vary in style. One has you using an isopod as a token in a Pachinko machine, another has you rolling around avoiding obstacles in a tunnel at high speeds, and the third has you stacking blocks to create a path to transport your bug to the end safely. They’re simple and short but entertaining and addictive games to pass the time and earn some currency. Since you’re limited to a single sub-genre of bugs, you end up only having three minigames to play, but I believe the more bugs you hatch and care for, the wider the variety of games available becomes.
But the main thing I love about the Bugaboo Pocket demo, aside from these collections of pixels I’m now affectionately viewing as my children, is how insightful it is to real-world critters. You learn things about the insects you’re raising rather than just getting to gawk at how pretty the sprites are, which makes the entire process of raising the beasties worthwhile. Playing with a little creature and understanding why it acts in specific ways will develop your understanding of real-life species, which is incredibly valuable to anyone who isn’t super clued up on insects, and a great example of how games can be learning tools.
It’s not all for nothing in-game, either. Your research and raising of these beasties goes towards restoring Beetleback Ridge, the location of your research lab, after a devastating fire, which the opening sequence portrays. So it’s all for the greater good, and you get to make some adorable friends while doing so. I can’t wait to see what its full release has in store, and I’m sure my ever-growing army of isopods will appreciate some variation, too.
We’ve got a list of the best GBA games if you’re looking for another short but sweet game worth playing through. Our guide to the best free games may also interest you if you’re looking for new experiences without breaking the bank.
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Kara is an Evergreen writer at TechRadar Gaming. With a degree in Journalism and a passion for the weird and wonderful, she's spent the last few years as a freelance video game journalist, with bylines at NintendoLife, Attack of the Fanboy, Prima Games, and sister publication, GamesRadar+. Outside of gaming, you'll find her re-watching Gilmore Girls or trying to cram yet another collectible onto a shelf that desperately needs some organizing.