Whether they’re marketed as ways to practice for having a real pet, ways to have fantasy pets like dragons, or just fun time-wasters, there are plenty of AR apps out there that feature virtual pets. But which one is right for your desires and your device?
AR Dragon Pet
AR Dragon Pet is an interesting opportunity for Android users, as the AR app is in beta as of this writing.
The game requires a number of printed markers, one for the dragon and one for various activities that you can do with your pet dragon, including feeding, playing, and giving medicine. Placing the dragon target lets the dragon appear anywhere, and placing the other markers near the dragon target lets the dragon interact with the other features of the game. There’s also a separate minigame in which the dragon uses fireballs to shoot down a target.
The app hasn’t been perfected yet, but being a part of beta testing is always exciting.
Dog Simulator – Doggygotchi Go!
Dog Simulator – Doggygotchi Go! is another free AR app for android, only this app is a little more realistic in that you keep a dog rather than a dragon. Like AR Dragon Pet, this app uses the camera to place the pet in your surroundings. Unlike AR Dragon Pet, however, Doggygotchi doesn’t use markers — a feature that always excites me more than it probably should.
Because the app doesn’t use markers, all of the commands are performed using buttons on the bottom of the screen. This might take away from the realism a little but still, no markers! The commands that you get at the beginning are to give the dog food and water, as well as two kinds of treats. When you tap the food and water icons, the dog goes up to them and appears to be drinking or eating, and bars at the top of the screen measuring the dog’s hunger and thirst fill up. If you don’t feed the dog and give it water, the bars go down, but I don’t think that the dog can ever die or get sick or anything like that. I didn’t try to kill the dog, but I periodically forgot to feed it for a day or two while the app was on my tablet, and nothing bad seemed to happen. Instead of just tapping the treats, you slide your finger up the screen to throw the treats, but the animation of the dog going after them is kind of lazy.
There are some other commands for tricks that seem to be locked. Maybe never unlocking them is what I get for periodically forgetting to feed my Doggygotchi.
Also, I don’t know if the animation on this app is worse than AR Dragon Pet, or if it’s easier to forgive AR Dragon pet because dogs are real, but the way that the Doggygotchi looks kind of unsettles me, or at the very least fails to impress.
The best things that I can say about this AR app are that it is free, it has no in-app purchases, and I still think it’s kind of neat that it doesn’t use stickers.
Dex: Your AR Dog Companion
The app, like Doggygotchi, uses an onscreen control panel and doesn’t require any markers. Dex’s animation and the ability of the dog to interact with the environment are also far more impressive than Doggygotchi, and Dex is capable of more tricks.
All of that development comes at a price, however, as Dex costs $1.99 in Google Play and the App Store, and also has some in-app purchases — including food, which is kind of vital. Dex can search your home for hidden coins, which can contribute to these in-app purchases, but the total price of running the app is still significant.
Planet AR – Virtual Pet
If digital dogs are your thing, Planet AR – Virtual Pet may be a nice middle-of-the-road option. This AR app, available for IOS or Android, uses the target system but also has far better graphics and interactivity than Doggygotchi. The graphics and interactivity aren’t nearly as impressive as Dex, but this app is entirely free to download and play.
Like AR Dragon Pet, you feed and play with your digital dog through other printable markers, and like Doggygotchi, the app uses bars to keep track of the dog’s wellbeing, only in this case it’s health and happiness, rather than hunger and thirst, which I rather appreciated. I didn’t have this AR app on my device for as long as Doggygotchi, but I also didn’t see what happens to this digital pet if its bars get too low.
In the end, Dex probably remains the best dog simulator AR app out there. The only potential downside is that it feels like it’s more for adults. Especially with the necessity of in-app purchases, you couldn’t really hand your device to the kids and let them play with Dex very safely.
AR Planet’s Virtual Pet has a lot of great features and it’s free, making it hugely family friendly.
Doggygotchi is nice because it’s entirely free and because you can take it anywhere without worrying about having space for a full-size dog, or to layout a marker. Because of its other limitations, however, it’s really only likely to be a laugh for the youngest audiences.
AR Dragon Pet gets points because it’s the only AR app of its kind that features a dragon rather than an actual pet. For this reason alone it stands out, and I’ll be watching for the release of the final version, though unfortunately that date doesn’t seem to have been announced yet.