Spoiler alert! Touch Pets Cats is about as close as you can get to raising a pet without owning one. The cats are almost irresistible and, best of all, their shit really doesn’t stink. In fact, it just disappears from the litter scoop as though it were never even there.
This means, of course, that Jenny Manytoes isn’t very happy with the game because she’s afraid the virtual pets will be so perfect we’ll replace her. She will sit on my shoulder while I play and stretch out the eight claws on her right paw to strike. She hisses at Mimi, tucks her ears back at Buster (virtual Buster, named in memory of the recently departed real Buster) and bunches her tail at my Touch Pets calico Velvet (named after a real calico Velvet who is also epileptic).
So I will have to take this one on my own.
Touch Pets Cats reminds me of a family friendly version of social network gaming. Something Disney might produce. I was thinking of Disney while Carol and I were watching Sucker Punch this afternoon. We pretty much had the theater to ourselves because it’s bombing at the box office.1 In one scene Vanessa Hudgens shouts “Mother F…” and suddenly the film score amplifies to cover it up and all I could think about was: “After Lindsay, does Disney make their teen actresses sign contracts to never say bad words?”
Carol assured me the producers probably wanted to avoid an R rating, which makes sense considering who they believed their target audience to be. But I can’t help but believe that in the future the ghost of Disney will be haunting these young actresses whenever they try to be bad. Look at poor Miley Cyrus, for example, reduced to smoking herbs (not herb but herbs) in a bong.
Touch Pets Cats would make perfect Disney cats. They’re never bad. They never knock dishes off shelves while they chase each other around the room, or spill their food and leave it for people to clean, or scratch litter over the edge of the litter box and out on the carpet. They are nothing but lovable. They also provide the perfect social network game for people who don’t want to get caught up in building kingdoms, cities, farms or tropical islands.
They purr, they rub scratching posts endearingly, and jump on the furniture to whisk their tails. And every time they do, or you feed them, brush them or change their litter you earn experience points. You earn money to buy furniture and food by harvesting coins from items around the house.
This litter box is about as gross as dealing with a Touch Pets cat will get. It looks real, but it disappears as soon as you scoop it. And the game rewards you for doing so. In real life your only reward for scooping litter is a sore back and a house that smells a little bit better. For fifteen minutes. Until they decide to try the clean litter out.
You can expand your house and fill each room with coin spouting furniture, hang flowers and lamps, decorate with china shelves, suits of armor and even sphinxes. You can also visit other players and play with their cats. The more affection you show, the more likely the neighbor’s cat to befriend yours. Unfortunately if you pay too much attention to one of the cats, the other cat gets jealous.
What makes Touch Pets Cats really different from any other social network game I’ve played is the emphasis on socializing. Yes, you will accumulate booty, make money and achieve levels. Yes, ngmoco:), the game developer will do everything in their power to get you to spend real money to buy catnip (which allows you to buy cooler stuff). But the main emphasis of the game is socializing.
You begin by adopting a cat. You can adopt several, but only two can play together at any time. Your next responsibility is to earn money to buy the items your kitties need–brushes, food and water bowls, balls, litter boxes, kitty snacks. As with real world purchases, your cat will wear these out frequently and you will have to replace them (or you can buy magic food and litter that never wears out with catnip, which costs real money).
With most social network games, the emphasis is on you and your fiefdom. Characters are usually little more than decorative animations. Touch Pets Cats is about the characters, both your cats and your neighbors’ cats.
Your cats get to visit their friends’ homes and even go on adventures together. There isn’t a lot to the adventure. You accept it and a picture returns of the two cats having accomplished their mission (suitable for sending to your photo library).
The game provides additional tasks to engage players. Each day players are challenged to carry out a number of different nurturing gestures throughout the day. You can’t do them all at once, you have to check back in from time to time before the next task becomes due. If you forget to finish a task by midnight, you lose any benefits you would have earned. (Of course, you can buy them back with catnip).
You can also challenge other players to adventures, such as saving the lost kitty or finding the alien spaceship. Once both players accept, you gather your tools and rendezvous to scurry away and save the day. The adventures tend to be disappointing because the adventure ends the second you accept, leaving you with a picture of the two cats celebrating. It would be nice if they actually had to find something hidden behind a bush or climb a tree, or jump on the burglar’s back with claws extended.
Players can also torture their poor kitties with outfits. They can dress them in body suits, drape them with bling, weigh them down with jewels and funny hats and deer antlers. I might, on a festive occasion, give Buster, Mimi and Velvet a party hat, but only for the evening. Poor Carol’s cats, (or to be honest Carol’s poor cats) have to wander around in body armor, jewels, furs and holiday decorations.
This isn’t a Touch Pets Cats phenomenon. Every Christmas she likes to dress our neanderthal dog Chutney with a christmas sweater and deer antlers. That might be bad enough, but then she photographs her and posts the pictures on the internet for all her friends to see. Chutney mopes around the house with her head down for weeks.
I don’t know who was more embarrassed. Poor Vanessa Hudgens when her boyfriend posted High School Musical nudie pics, or Chutney when Carol posted Christmas pics. I suspect it’s Chutney. Our eskimo Pookah, long since departed, put up with none of that crap. If Carol put an elves’ cap on him, it would be hooked around a chair leg or Christmas tree within minutes. Or simply chewed to pieces and thrown up on the carpet.
Carol’s Touch Pets cats—Buddy, Mei Latte (who passed after a ripe old age) and Garbanzo (our black cat with an attitude when we first married twenty years ago) suffer every form of indignity because they can’t take that stuff off.
You can adopt one of a number of precious cats and then feed them, groom them, play with them and even torture them with any number of costumes only humans can love.
Like all social network games, Touch Pets Cats can get boring after twenty or thirty levels (more so, if you’ve played a lot of these games). I personally reached a point where I bought everything I could buy and still earned cash. It can also be irritating to check in one minute after midnight and realize you forgot to do that last task and all of your work for the day is shot to hell.
Still, if you want to try a social network game, but the thought of planting crops and building buildings seems unspeakably tedious, Touch Pets Cats is one I would go with.
With all this said, however, here’s what I really like about the game. Carol and I loved the real Buster, Mimi, Mei Latte and Garbanzo. These weren’t fosters, these were ours and precious to us in ways that lead us into melancholy memories people who don’t have pets would never understand. The virtual versions will never replace them, but every once in a while we will actually catch sight of Touch Pets Cats Buster leaping from couch to couch and actually catch glimpses of the Buster we loved.
Jenny, however, has made it clear that under no circumstances should we make her a character in this stupid game.
Jenny Manytoes rates Touch Pets Cats.
Jenny Manytoes insists Touch Pets Cats is a pale shadow compared to the love she has to offer, a simulacrum and a cheap one at that. She has even expressed doubt that Touch Pets cats could ever discuss Plato with the eloquence she brings to the table (or even discuss Plato at all). But if I were to adopt a virtual Touch Pets Cats version of Jenny, TCP Jenny would purr whenever I opened the app to visit.
1Maybe because the marketing didn’t prepare the teenage boys they were targeting that this was actually a movie about female empowerment with an ending reminiscent of the melancholy ending to Brazil. The trailers made it look like post-teen stars Emily Browning and Vanessa Hudgens would scamper around in short skirts with skimpy underwear and kick their legs a lot. They do, but the movie throws in a lot of subtext, which is a lot for teen boys to process, and a lot of overt text about exploiting women, which is even more difficult for teen boys to process. As a result, the teen boys are waiting for the Blue Ray so they can fast forward through the girl stuff and run the girls kicking with their underwear showing parts in slow motion. But they’re avoiding the theatrical release.
Had the distributors decided to market the movie to smart girls they might have done better, but no one believes that smart girls could be a market except for smart girls. And the marketing directors never listen to them because they’re too busy wishing they were still teenage boys trying to get a peek at a real girl’s underwear.