As hard as it might be to believe, the Tamagotchi will be celebrating its 15th anniversary next year. But this will be more than an anniversary for the popular pocket pet device that everyone had to have back in 1996 — it’s an anniversary for the genre itself. The Tamagotchi gave birth to the virtual pet genre, and as you’ll see in our review of Pet Society, it’s grown a lot since then.

Pet Society is all about raising a virtual pet of your own creation, but these pets have more in common with people than puppies. They’ll want to tackle all kinds of people problem and situations. They’ll go shopping, they’ll go fishing, they’ll watch TV with their friends – the word “pet” really seems like a misnomer. Are the characters animal in nature? Absolutely. But they’re also anthropomorphs – animals exhibiting predominantly human qualities. When was the last time you caught you cat ordering a frappacino? Never, that’s when.

Pet Society

The virtual pet genre isn’t without games that focus on a more realistic approach to pet care. Happy Pets and Touch Pets Dogs are both great examples of this. So long as you can get past the fact that Pet Society has very little to do with a traditional pet/owner relationship, you’re going to find a title that will overwhelm you with top notch gameplay.

The breadth of content here is outstanding. Go on a shopping adventure, participate in a race, jump rope, cook a casserole, grow a garden, visit friends – the list goes on and on. You can even purchase and raise petlings. Yep – there’s even pets for your pets. But what makes Pet Society isn’t how much content the game throws at you, it’s how unique each piece of content feels.

Tossing a beach ball around, for example, has you trying to click on the ball before it touches the ground. Cooking requires you to shop for ingredients and get back to the oven before your meal burns. Participating in a foot race not only has you clicking every time your pet needs to clear a hurdle, it will let you gamble on the outcome. There are literally dozens of activities to discover and explore, and no two ever really feel alike. This variety of content is at the heart of Pet Society‘s success.

The vast majority of this content comes from shopping in the game’s many stores. The stores are set up as individual shops that are part of a larger town. There’s a food shop, a clothing shop, a gadget shop, a furniture shop and more. By giving items their own individual stores, things are kept incredibly well-organized. Such organization is key when you have this much content. Once you set foot in your first store, you’ll know what I mean.

Items in a store are put on display just like they would be in the real world, and as you scroll to the right to see what’s on offer, it seems to go on forever. Every style is catered to. Everything from ketchup bottles to complete bedroom sets is on display. Need a stuffed lobster? No problem. Popcorn machine? They’ve got that too. The selection here is beyond overwhelming, and the developers are determined to make it ever more so. New items are added all the time.

Pet Society

The items aren’t merely cosmetic – not all the time, anyways. Many of the items in Pet Society find ways to enhance your play experience. Buying an aquarium will give you a place to keep the fish you catch. Buying seeds will let you plant a garden. Buying a Nannybot will keep things tidy and your pets played with while your away. Even little things like chairs and televisions will create interactions for your pet, who is more than happy to sit in his comfy furniture and flick on the TV.

Many of the more engaging experiences you’ll have in Pet Society will happen with the pets belonging to your friends. Visiting your friends is not only a good way to earn coins, but a great way to see how amazingly personalized every home in Pet Society can be. We’ve visited countless houses, and we’ve never seen two that looked even a little bit alike. The rooms people can pull together with the options in Pet Society are downright breathtaking. You can let a little of your style rub off on them too, as you’ll be able to gift any game available in the shop to any friend you like.

There are other elements of social interaction built into the game as well. Races in the stadium take place between your pet and pets belonging to your friends. Joining the Cafe lets you visit the homes of pets you don’t know, and gives them the chance to check out your style. Pet Society is a well-balanced game, giving time to play, shopping, and social interaction equally.

Just like in real life, fun and game can only come after basic needs have been met. You’ll need to feed, bathe and play with your pet in order to keep their hunger, hygiene and happiness meters filled up. You’ll want to make sure to stay on top of these, because if you try to leave the house smelly or moody, it’s going to show when you try and interact with other pets. If your meters are too low your pet won’t want to do anything at all. Thankfully food and soap are always just a click away.

Pet Society has been a staple of Facebook gaming for more than a year now, and after spending a few months in their virtual pet town it’s not hard to see why. The amount of content – and the amount of fun we’ve had with that content – has been staggering. With regular updates introducing new choices all the time, it’s hard to imagine a time when Pet Society won’t remain an excellent choice for Facebook gamers.