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iPhone App Review: Zander – Virtual Pet Alien

iPhone App Review: Zander – Virtual Pet Alien

July 10th, 2011 by

Virtual pets have come a long way since the old days of Tamagotchi. Developers Hot Salsa Interactive take the virtual pet formula and add a few new twists of their own with Zander – Virtual Pet Alien. Not only can he do the usual assortment of tricks, play music, and share photos, but Zander has his own verbal and written language with over 70 different commands to discover. Zander isn’t a free app like some other virtual pet-type apps available in the App Store, but he also doesn’t include a host in-app purchasing content to try and siphon your account dry like the others. Is the up-front $1.99 price tag a better deal the freemium offerings?

How It Works

First off, be sure to force-quit your most recent open apps on your device. Like Hot Salsa’s other apps, Zander will constantly nag you about Low Memory if you’re not starting the app with a relatively clean slate.

The first time you launch the app you have to “dial in” Zander from a screen full of static. It’s an easy first step but it’s a nice immersive touch that gets you ready to play with an alien. It would be nice if this happened more often than just the initial startup, but I imagine it would get annoying if you had to do it every single time.

Zander’s commands include the photo button, which has him get out his camera and take your picture, which you can then share via email, Facebook, or just save to your photo album. The music  button sends him to his drawer to get out a drum and alien flute-type object, and while he keeps the beat you can play a little tune (through tapping, not blowing, sadly). The menu button tosses up a list of other basic commands that you can tap to execute, plus he understands a few English commands as well as dozens of “alien” words that cause him to perform many different actions. He’ll dance, eat, play, sneeze; and much, much more, all with a comedic flair that will keep children entertained.

Pros And Cons

The initial Low-Memory warning is annoying if easily preventable, simply by closing other running apps on your device. What was a little more annoying was seeing the same warning with the Zander app when asking the little alien to take my picture. If Zander himself takes up so much memory that using the in-app camera feature to take a picture causes a Low Memory warning, then the app’s memory management might need some attention. This was experienced on an iPhone 4, which is currently the most powerful handheld iDevice on the market (for the next few months, anyway).

Other than that minor annoyance, Zander is a great little virtual companion to play with and discover. It’s not a game per se, but more like an exploratory experience with healthy doses of positive feedback to keep children and adults alike constantly striving to find the next nugget of undiscovered territory. Rather than being an interactive picture that makes funny sounds, it’s an educational journey as you try to discover all of the English and alien commands that Zander knows, and what he can do.

Overall

Zander – Virtual Pet Alien is well worth the up-front price, as it’s a cut above the other interactive virtual pet-type apps in the App Store. A lot of care and thought went into the graphics, sound, and the entire experience of discovery that Zander has to offer. It’s also a universal app, with graphics that look great on the larger screen of the iPad, so it’s like getting two apps for the price of one.

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