Tamagotchi is back - with a sex drive

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The Independent Online

Parents know how exhausting it can be answering newborn babies' every beck and call: the constant feedings, nappy changes and rocking them to sleep while they wail.

Parents know how exhausting it can be answering newborn babies' every beck and call: the constant feedings, nappy changes and rocking them to sleep while they wail.

That is the feeling that returns with the Tamagotchi Plus, a revamped version of the digital pet from 1996, of which 40 million were sold worldwide in two years. This time, the egg-shaped portable electronic pets can befriend each other, even mate, thanks to an infrared link. They remain monochrome but the display is bigger and visual quality has improved.

Tamagotchi Plus, from Bandai, went on sale last month in Japan for 1,980 yen (£10): the same price as the original. Its target audience is young females, especially school children without a mobile phone.

The idea is identical to the original: the pet character begins life as a blob. It slowly matures into one of about a dozen animals, including one that resembles a beaked ball of fire. Parenting is a relatively simple process, done with three buttons. If a button is pushed after the word "meal" pops up on the tiny liquid-crystal display, the pet will drink out of a bottle. When the pet leaves droppings around, more buttons can be pushed to make a picture of a lavatory pop up. Another push cleans things up. As owners become more skilled, they learn that pushing a button at the right time, when squiggles appear on the screen, will ensure the pet is potty-trained.

The new version includes dexterity games on the pet's mental and physical development. How often the owner scolds or caresses influences that development. Leave a pet unattended and it beeps for attention. Fail to respond and it grows sick. More neglect and a grave will appear.

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