Furballs and fun are a risky match in Fuzzits!, a new virtual pet simulator
The eponymous protagonists of TnT’s Fuzzits resemble nothing so much as Tribbles, the limbless little furballs that famously buried William Shatner up to his communicator in a famed 1967 Star Trek episode. Kirk and friends couldn’t wait to get rid of them, but here your goal is to gain and care for as many Fuzzits as you can. As in other pet games on Facebook, you can pat, groom, and feed your pets and raise them to adulthood, but Fuzzits adds some flavor to the formula by letting you train them and letting them build their own town. It’s a nice idea, but the trouble with Fuzzits lies in the execution.
Browsing through the game’s shop reveals that there are at least four different types of Fuzzits (more can be made through breeding), but the only true visual differences lie in their sizes and colors and occasional appendages. Some are round, some are a bit more eggplant-shaped, and some have antennae or ears like a cat. A very select few—mainly NPCs—have tails. And that’s where the differences end. All of the Fuzzits use the same four or so facial expressions for different moods, and sometimes these expressions never change when you interact with your pets. This makes it difficult to tell how much they enjoy being petted or fed or, indeed, if the game’s even registering that you’re performing an action. Very often the pet will just sit there staring blankly out into space as you try to coax it into action with cookies or strokes of a hairbrush. For a pet game, it’s a tremendous and unfortunate oversight, and the potentially lovable Fuzzits end up seeming a little dull.
Even so, we learn early on that each pet has a different personality. Some, we’re told, are studious; others are athletic, nurturing, or artistic. You can foster these traits by training adults in a training room in your attic once a day for six hours, and you can even unlock an “adventurous” Fuzzit if you level four Fuzzits of the other types to Level 9. Unfortunately, training is the only place where your Fuzzits display any sort of individual actions associated with their personalities. Sporty Fuzzits train on a trampoline, and artistic Fuzzits smear some paper with their furry bodies. It’s undoubtedly cute the first couple of times, but the point of all this cuteness is unclear unless you read the FAQ.
So why train? Apparently all those hours of bouncing and smearing paint your chances of finding items that fit a particular Fuzzit’s personality in the Town section of the game. You can then build collections with these for rewards. The town itself consists of an empty map with grasslands and a coastline, but you can unlock a number of buildings by clicking on containers littered throughout the countryside and using their contents in recipes. These may contain one of a small number of ingredients or one of the collectible personality items mentioned above. For instance, after we found some tea leaves, sugar, and flour in barrels, we were able to use them to open construction on a museum run by an NPC Fuzzit named Professor Fluffybottom. (Don’t ask.) Unfortunately, there’s not much to do at these establishments as the game currently stands. You can raise your reputation with these seemingly more intelligent Fuzzits by speaking with them (Fluffybottom, for instance, chatters about his love of geodes), but the point of doing so is far from clear without looking elsewhere.
Indeed, many players may find their towns in arrested development because of Fuzzits’ outlandish construction requirements. Every building we encountered in our playthrough required a minimum of five friends before it could be ungraded from a construction site to an actual building. This would be fine if Fuzzits had some engaging options for visitors, but by and large it only provides the genre’s usual social options. You can visit your friends’ Fuzzits and care for them for a bit more cash, you can send your friends a small assortment of gifts, and you can collect some coins from a pile the Fuzzits build up on a daily basis. Later TnT plans to add some unspecified means of having your friends interact with your town, which will hopefully mean that Professor Fluffybottom gets to exhibit his finds from digsites instead of running a museum that’s, well, a digsite.
Fuzzits’ town and training options provide a nice twist on the traditional pet-game formula, but both seem underdeveloped and it’s often a little difficult to figure out what to do next. Indeed, the game as a whole suffers from inadequate in-game tutorials, and thus you learn far more from reading the external FAQ than you will from interacting with your Fuzzits. That’s not to say that TnT doesn’t actively attempt to improve. In one recent case, for instance, TnT ensured that Fuzzits could no longer get sick—a move that proved quite popular among the player base. (Apparently the cuddleballs were dying off when players didn’t log in for a day or two.). Fuzzits also frequently provides for seasonal backgrounds and holiday vanity items for the playroom or town, which goes a long way toward righting an otherwise limited item selection.
To be sure, Fuzzits isn’t a bad game, but it feels more like a decent rough draft instead of a final product. There’s a lot of potential here, and hopefully the frequent updates will turn Fuzzits into a true contender as the game progresses. But before they make any changes to the training, before they make interactions with NPC “townie” Fuzzits more rewarding, and even before they add more social options, TnT needs to focus on the Fuzzits themselves. Even adding a few facial expressions to match the personalities might help, but as it is, the game’s unexciting Fuzzits are too troublesome to trouble with for long.