TOYOLOGIST PETER JENKINSON PUTS THIS YEAR'S CHRISTMAS CRACKER THROUGH THE MILL. THE RESULT IS ALL WHEAT, NO CHAFF
Furby Connect is the latest furry incarnation of the hugely successful interactive thing whose lineage can be traced back to 1998, and has been annoying adults ever since. This latest model arrives at a time when I am the parent of its target market; if this one annoys me, my small person might align my removal of the batteries as grounds to report me to the authorities.
As with all Furby units in the past, the only method of silencing was indeed the removal of the power source. Furby Connect, I can confirm, can be silenced with ease. A simple eye-mask accessory is included, which you must insist that its owner looks after carefully. I do expect that a 3D print file will appear when the first Thingiverse-friendly parent suffers the loss of one.
Furby Connect - Unconnected
The distinct departure away from its chequered past with parents isn’t just in the near-instant send-to-sleep mode, but that it is loaded with Bluetooth, has LED eyes, a multitude of under-fur sensors and even a smart-beak. Its aim for best-seller status is backed up with the app connectivity to Furby Connect World, but its demographic ownership will insist it can be played standalone too – and it really can be very entertaining in offline mode.
With all the aforementioned sensors you can tickle, hug, rub, pull the tail (childish yet amusing backside burps guaranteed), shake, hold it upside down and begin to learn the Furbish language it speaks. The more you interact, the more its personality evolves. Treat Furby well (tickles and such) and the friendlier it’ll become. But treat it with disdain (upside down action and pokes) and its personality will be more obnoxious; not NSFW, but it’ll become more of a banterous being. Either way you decide to go, you can always alter your treatment and Furby will eventually adjust.
Furby Connect – Connected
Well over two years of development from the Hasbro team has gone into the way the app interacts with your physical Furby. Connect via Bluetooth and physical Furby begins to be part of the app environment. Furby Connect World is its playground and it is immediately a really immersive world in which to play.
Firstly, choose a name for your physical friend and then begin to explore the multiple areas in which to play. From the Fishing area to the threatre, the toilet (yes toilet) to the feeding station, there is plenty on offer. Feeding Furby involves loading up an on-screen cannon with various foodstuffs and as you fire the animated cannon the connected Furby recognizes it is being fed and feeds back on whether it enjoys what you’ve delivered.
Taking Furby to the toilet involves holding the physical toy over the on-screen lavatory and holding it over the top. It’ll take its turn on the throne and, with some coercing, make its deposit inside – anything from a burger to a pineapple. Its all very good childish fun, and will induce a grin from kids of all ages.
By interacting with connected Furby using with the app, you gain prizes, all of which build up to create a virtual egg which then gets hatched on the app. The more you play with the on-screen Furblings that are hatched on-screen, the more egglings you can also potentially hatch too. The more Furblings you have on-screen the more activities you open up.
The app includes a video/theatre area which is populated with watchable content, more of which is being added to daily by the development team. When new content becomes available, the physical Furby has an antenna that turns blue prompting you to pay a visit.
It’s really a quite compelling virtuous play cycle: play with physical and get more in-app rewards, play in-app only, receive more of the same. These rewards enable more activity, the creation of more potential Furblings on-screen and therefore more activity is opened up.
There are small nuances that create the unexpected that again appear to be timed perfectly to the point where a kid might get bored. A surprise action such as being asked to turn physical Furby upside down or open its mouth to stroke its tongue to produce a new in-app action had me playing for far longer than I’d expected at the outset. And accessing the Flying Club took up to six hours as I had to hatch a dozen Furblings. Half a day disappeared with ease.
It is worth pointing out I was ‘dual-screening’ with other projects but my kids, when left alone with this digital pet, were entirely focused for long periods, enjoying the combination of the physical and app action. These elements combine brilliantly and ultimately make it tricky to take Furby away without some promise to them of how much time they could spend with it another time.
Keeping track of your content
As you play with Furby and the app, there is a constantly updated register of your skill levels achieved for each Furbling (there are 71 to collect). Each one falls into one of several categories such as Youthful, Super Hero, Outer Space and Seasonal. Kee Kah, Doo Doo and May Tah were amongst my crew, each one with distinctly different personalities.
This Furby Connect has real depth
Whilst conducting this research I did have a work call come in and Furby went quiet. I was stunned. This Connect kit has had some low level A.I. inserted and now has polite mode – or was that a fluke? Furby allowed itself to become second priority to any other media activity on my smartphone.
Touted as a big seller for this Yule amongst the leading toy retailers, one could be skeptical enough to think a £75 toy was making them profit margins aplenty. I was certainly in this camp pre battery insert. The depth of gameplay with the online content (which is set to grow and grow) and the decent offline play with Furby alone is impressive. There are in-app purchases but they’re not intrusive and the smiles it has delivered thus far have been many. Furby Connect is a true all-round toy and digital natives and grown-ups alike will warm to all manner of Furbish behaviour. I have never been a Furby fan but Furby Connect has changed my view entirely.
Available from Argos