In the same vein as Webkinz and NeoPets, Hallmark and Abandon Interactive Entertainment have given us Freaky Pets. Freaky Pets is a combination of stuffed animals and a free MMO for children. Recently the PR company for Freaky Pets, Pitch Public Realtions, asked if they could send me a toy to review since there are a lot of kids that read Diehard GameFAN. I said sure as I’m always happy to stay hip to what the tots are into these days and roughly a month later two Freaky Pets, along with their online code for the game arrived.
I received two figures: Puff Puff and Gweek. Both stuffed animals stand between seven and ten inches tall (Puff Puff has bunny ears which artificially inflate his height)Both stuffed animals are made of polyester. Puff Puff is based off on a rabbit and Gweek appears to be based off of a Yeti, or the Abominable Snowman. Gweek isn’t my cup of tea in terms of cuteness but Puff Puff IS adorable. Even my two pet rabbits showed interest in it at first until they realized it wasn’t an actual living lagomorphs.
The gimmick behind Freaky Pets is twofold. First the stuffed animals are reversalable. One side is the “cute” side while the other is their “cranky” form. This is kind of a cool way to make the toys appealable to both little boys and girls, but I prefer the cute side to both Gweek and Puff Puff. Puff Puff’s “cranky” side looks like a vorpal bunny from the old Wizardry and Bard’s Tale games. One side of the stuffed animal is exceptionally soft and fluffy compared to the other. With Gweek it’s the “cute” form, while with Puff Puff, it is oddly his “cranky” side. The toys are held in either form by a strip of Velcro. Both Freaky Pets were well constructed and they are machine washable in case your child spills something on the poor little critter.
Both stuffed animals also come with an exclusive webcode for the online game. Now you CAN access Freaky Pets the game for free, but when you buy the stuffed animal, the code that comes with it unlocks extra stuff in the game as well as gives you a free second digital Freaky Pet, that of Purriz the cat. You can buy Purriz for only a dollar if you don’t want to get the stuffed animals but you REALLY want the cat based Freaky Pet. They also have the option of Dinork, who looks like he is based off of a T-Rex for two dollars. Those are the only things sold for real money in the game and that’s kind of a refreshing change from most MMOs that nickel and dime you for every add-on.
I chose to use Puff Puff’s code to start playing the game. I answered a few questions, named my Puff Puff (Sweetums, after the muppet) and entered the world of Freaky Pets. Sadly for the few hours I was on, I appeared to be the only person playing. There were two or three other characters that were made by people, but they were just standing around as if their user had left the game and forgotten to log off. Now I know the emphasis on Freaky Pets is to keep it kid friendly and safe from digital predators, so it could be that when I entered my age at 33, the game stuck me on an “all adults” server or something like that. I tried again in the morning but once more, there was only one other person on.
Freaky Pets is definitely a cute little game for kids. It’s a pretty big world for a free game for kids. There are lots of games to play, including an arrow key based version of DDR, a spacecraft racing game a blimb blaster game ala Missile Command and to a “Memory” like card game. I played half a dozen in all, with the Dance Dance Revolution style game being my favorite. Playing games net the player coins which can then be used to purchased things for your Freaky Pet like a change of colour, hats, sunglasses, bandannas, backpacks and special tricks. For my Puff Puff, I painted him black, gave him Bret Hart style sunglasses and taught him his first trick, which was “Hum.” Teaching your Freaky Pet tricks is a mini game as well, as you have to trace a pattern. The better you do, the faster your Freaky Pet will learn its new tricks. Tricks range from singing and dancing to gymnastics, so you can spend a lot of time just teaching your Freaky Pet tricks. Again, everything in the game is free so far. Mini-Games, the spin of the day that nets you free coins, and in-game purchases do not cost any real currency. Items, tricks, and the like do cost IN-GAME currency but that only comes from playing the free mini-games.
Some of the games, like the matching card game are a bit too easy for an adult, but I can see kids having a lot of fun with it. Other games, like the DDR or “Blimp Blaster,” can even give adults a bit of a pause on the hardest difficulty setting. For example, with “Blimp Blaster,” I achieved a perfect score in levels 1-6, but hey, I’m an adult, right? On level seven I missed one, on level eight I had another perfect score and on level 9, I actually lost and had to replay. Thankfully I did finish the highest difficulty level with a perfect score, but it shows that if you’re a parent who wants to play a game with your child, grandchild or what have you, this is a nice way of interacting with them and not feeling that the game is TOO easy for your age bracket.
The controls are pretty easy. You use the arrow keys to move, the T button to switch your Freaky Pet’s form and the space bar to jump. Turning your Freaky Pet can be a bit cumbersome at first (Puff Puff likes to take WIDE turns), but the controls are pretty good for a free MMO and I never encountered any slowdown. The only issue I ever ran into with the game is that after beating a level of the dance club, my screen got a grey haze on it and I had to refresh the client before I could interact with anything. Again, that only happened once so the game as a whole seems pretty solid.
Basically I found Freaky Pets to be a cute and family friendly online game for kids.There’s a nice selection of mini games, there’s a pretty big world to spend time in and with some many options for customizing your pet, you can really make yours stand out from the pack. The only two downsides I have found are that there is no one really playing, which makes the game feel like a ghost town, and the game doesn’t feel like something you could play for weeks at a time. Rather it feels like a game you would play occasionally. Still, if the game could get a decent online community going, a child could probably get more use out of it, as it could meet up with friends and play games against them that way. The online version of Freaky Pets has been around for six months and the stuffed animals for about five. You can only purchase them at a Hallmark store, which may explain why the online world was so sparse. Generally the Hallmark audience isn’t one that goes into that store looking for stuffed animals that turn into viscous monsters.
You can learn more about Freaky Pets by visiting the official website for the game and stuffed animals. Again, the online game is free to play, so you can sign your child up today and see if they like it. There’s also a coupon on the web site for two dollars off a Freaky Pets stuffed animal if you are so inclined.