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Weyrdlets screenshot

Pet simulator Weyrdlets is… weird

I got off on the wrong foot with Weyrdlets almost instantly. Before I could play the demo of this self-proclaimed “virtual pet game that harmonises relaxation with productivity”, I had to create an account. For a demo. I could’ve thrown in the towel there and then. But this is my job. I huffed and puffed and created an account, so I could be faced with my first little Weyrdlets pet.

There are three Weyrdlets to choose from in the demo. I opted for a round rabbity-looking creature: when you create them, their colours are randomly-generated. Mine’s beige and brown — and rather adorable. The colours of my actual real-life dog, in fact. I called him Gordon. The Weyrdlet, not my dog.

What to do with Gordon is the next question. Not much, as it turns out. Gordon wanders around his cute little island, completely barebones right now. There’s a house, and through the tutorial I was kindly gifted with a bit of rudimentary furniture to brighten it up. I don’t think Gordon cares one way or the other. He wanders around doing his own thing. I can pick him up, but he doesn’t like that. I’m supposed to be able to pet him, too, but attempting just seems to pick him up again. He makes a face at me like my dog does when he’s seriously pissed off at something.

Weyrdlets screenshot
Image: Weyrdworks

If I leave Gordon alone, he digs stuff up — treasures, that I can use to buy stuff. Food, treats and medicine for him. He likes apples and candy, apparently. There’s an in-game shop where I can see all the stuff I can buy: lots of it is locked out until you level up, which you’ll do over time by your pet finding more treasures. Raising a bit of a red flag, there’s also a real-money shop here, letting me pay for more in-game currency so I can buy Gordon more stuff, although it doesn’t seem to be functional yet.

By clicking on a boat perched on the edge of my island, I can also send Gordon off on an excursion once a day for him to find even greater treasures — but he’s gone for two hours, leaving me with nothing to do if I wanted to continue playing Weyrdlets.

To be honest, I wouldn’t say Weyrdlets is the type of game you “play”. It’s simply there for you to check into, see how your pet is getting on and then move on with your day. The element of customising your home seems, currently, largely redundant — simply because earning enough money to buy anything meaningful is going to take a great deal of time. Gordon’s cute, but I think our relationship is going to be a bit like it was with my Tamagotchi when I was eight: fun for half an hour until I’d completely lost all interest.

Weyrdlets screenshot
Image: Weyrdworks

One neat feature is that your Weyrdlet can leave the confines of their island and join you on your desktop. One click of a button in-game will take you back to your desktop, bringing your pet with you. Indeed, as I’m writing this, Gordon is running amok on my screen, hopping side-to-side. Developer Weyrdworks bills this as a productivity feature: you can even set a pomodoro timer, allowing you to schedule breaks and give yourself a set block of time to focus on getting stuff done. There’s also a to-do list you can enable right in the game’s menu.

The trouble is, having a weird little dude wander around your screen isn’t exactly the best for productivity, though maybe that’s just me. I’m not exactly focusing on what I’m doing here; I’m too busy staring at Gordon (thank god for touchtyping), watching what he’s doing, and wondering why he keeps getting stuck in the corner of my screen. I’m also focusing on his stats, watching his happiness meter slowly creep into the red — he’s hard to please — and wondering when he might poop and what that might look like.

Weyrdlets on the desktop
Here’s Gordon wandering around my screen as I was writing this article. Screenshot: GameSpew

It’s fine when Weyrdlets is the thing I’m writing about. But before I move on to the next thing, I’ll be turning Weyrdlets off: as cute as Gordon may be, he’s absolutely not going to help me get more done. Maybe if other people have a different working style to me, they may appreciate a cute little distraction on their desktop. But for me, it all feels a bit 90s/early 2000s. Remember BonziBuddy? It’s probably best if you don’t, but that’s what I’m reminded of here.

Still, if you like the idea of a little virtual pet you can check in on now and then, you could do worse than Weyrdlets. Back in the confines of Gordon’s own little island, this is a cute-looking game with a certain charm. Watching your pet go about its business is pleasant enough way to waste a few minutes, although getting much more than that out of this experience might be hoping for a bit too much.

Ultimately, the fact that there are microtransactions here, and that you need an account to play, gives us huge pause: neither of those things are in line with the “wholesome” image Weyrdlets is hoping to go for. At least it’ll be free to play when it eventually launches on Steam.

Weyrdlets is coming to PC later this year. You can try out the free demo for yourself.

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