Skip to content
June 15, 2011 / jwaxo

Oddballz and Creatures (Real-Life Pets)

[Standard apologies for skipping a day. I had very important visitors to my fair city for the weekend and more, and then was struck down with a random stomach flu. I’ve taken my two-hundred lashings and put extra love into my doodles today. On with the blogging!]

As close to real pets that eat slime and have six legs can get!

It’s no secret whatsoever: my mom hates pets. “I like people, not animals,” she says. This didn’t prevent us from having two different dogs (at two separate times), numerous fish, a guinea pig, two salamanders, and a frog during my childhood. Despite this, there were some very long, very serious droughts of any animals in our house, and it was very easy to blame these droughts on my mom’s dislike for them. To her eternal credit, she not only put up with the dogs (and various other animals), but continues to put up with my two cats when she comes to visit, despite her horrible cat allergy. But that still didn’t solve this problem, this need for pets that kids almost always seem to have.

Enter the famous, eternal video games.

I had never even considered the possibility of using a computer game to keep a pet. I think once upon a time I saw one of those “virtual aquarium” deals and got extremely excited at the thought of caring for fish that might die, picking them out, replacing them if needed. The idea faded within a few hours, I’m sure, but the concept stuck, until I encountered PF Magic’s Oddballz a bit later.

I was at a friends’ house when I heard the strangest sounds coming from the garage where they, mysteriously, kept their computer. Naturally, being the tiny geek that I was, I beelined for the door to find out what game was being played. What I saw was their own solution to not having any pets: a demo for this weird game Oddballz. In it they had a pet named “Lips” that looked like something Tim Burton created with a bunch of sentient balls. They played with it by throwing a ball around, and feeding it these slimy worms. In moments the demo was popped onto a floppy disc and placed into my jacket pocket.

Pictured: a common scene in the 90’s. Not Pictured: jacket pocket.

The demo for Oddballz was really all you needed to have your own virtual pet. You had Lips, you had the atomic ball thing that was really a lesson in physics on its own (it would gravitate and orbit things when left alone, and could be thrown with a quick drag of the mouse), you had the spray gun to punish Lips with, you had the Grubz to feed him/her. And while everything was there that was in the final game, where Lips could be taught tricks and would grow with time, it wasn’t enough for me. The full version not only had a full amount of toys, but also a huge selection of creatures to play with. Dynaroo and Modvark and Quadrapus, all with their quirks and lack of gigantis lips, which really grates on you after a time.

Kind of like a silent scream, isn't it?Look at them. Look at theeeeeeeeeem!

However, as in so many other stories of mine, the game was nigh-on impossible to find. Every game store. Every website. Every book and electronic store. Nothing doing.

Really, that’s a lot of my stories. I could keep having them, but most of them would be the same: I somehow encountered a game, I really wanted the game, it’s a really rare game in some way or the other, I searched all over for it (more often than not with the help of my mom) I eventually find it, I learn an important lesson about something. This is the entire reason I’ve been putting off a post about Chex Quest for the past three months; it’s all of that, except the game is in a cereal box. There’s something in that, I guess.

In this case, I gave up on it, and received it for my birthday. The game was found at a Hastings, apparently.

Your entertainment superstore, indeed.

It came in this crazy box, in the shape of a triangular prism, bright orange. I kept it forever just because it was cooky. Inside, the box, is what’s important: not just Oddballz, but Creatures. Unlike Oddballz, which was almost entirely about having stupid pets and just kind of playing around with them, Creatures was a serious simulation. There were virtual genes, hormones you could inject the eponymous creatures with, the ability to teach them English, and even more ridiculously deep things. It really had more in common with The Sims than the game that it came in.

Imagine if there was some crazy crossover!

These two games together really helped me learn an important lesson, although it took me years to realize it: virtual pets have a major difference between real ones, in that they don’t have any consequences. I restarted my Creatures game innumerable times, after they got sick or learned the wrong reactions. I restarted my Oddballz ones over and over, after they became too neurotic from being punished poorly or fed at the wrong times. And when you’re lacking that risk, that the things you are teaching your pet are imprinted on them, I think that it loses the ability to retain things like “names” or “personalities”. Plus there’s, you know, the entire manufactured aspect.

And, like, seriously, it took forever for the Creatures to pass through a second generation. Can you blame me for getting bored?

[Caption not found]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s