Peridot review: Paywalled pet sim isn’t a patch on Pokemon Go

Daniel Megarry
A poster for Peridot

It’s hard to talk about Peridot without comparing it to Pokemon Go. The two free-to-play games, which both hail from mobile developer Niantic, rely heavily on real-world maps and augmented reality to track where you are and how you interact with other players. In both games, the primary goal is to collect ‘em all – albeit in very different ways – and you’ll spend your time caring for a roster of cute creatures by feeding them, playing with them, and helping them grow.

Where Peridot differs is that it’s a totally original IP, unlike Pokemon Go which already had a globally established and beloved franchise to pull characters from. There’s also no battling or trading to be found in Peridot, with the focus solely on raising your virtual pet. Oh, and AR is a requirement, not an option – so I hope your phone’s battery is prepared.

When you first open Peridot, you’ll have a choice of three eggs in different colors. After making your decision, your egg will hatch and you’ll be given a Peridot (or Dot for short) with a “unique genetic makeup” that’s essentially a mishmash of different animal features, patterns, and personality traits.

My first Dot – who I named Oscar – was an adorable little thing with cat ears, a horse tail, bharal horns, and a cheetah pattern across its body. As someone with a weakness for anything cute and cuddly, I was sold immediately, and so I spent the next hour figuring out everything we could do together. I could pet my Dot, feed it snacks, throw balls for it to fetch, or teach it tricks by swiping food across the screen in a specific pattern.

Dots also have desires, like eating a specific snack or looking at a flower. This is where the game gets to show off its impressive AR features, as foraging on different surfaces like concrete, soil, or water will reward you with different types of food. At one point, Oscar wanted to look at a dog or a cat, so I introduced him to my boyfriend’s dog Tyler. It took a while for the game to process this, but eventually, it worked. It’s a nice way of involving your real-world surroundings and showing off what augmented reality is capable of, even if it’s not perfect yet.

If you strip away those AR features, though, Peridot is essentially a Tamagotchi for your smartphone – and one thing I remember about Tamagotchi from my childhood is that they never kept my attention for very long. You can probably see where I’m going with this.

The goal with each Dot is to raise it from a baby to a teenager and finally an adult. You do this by earning XP, which can be sourced from all those activities mentioned earlier; feeding your Dot, playing with it, and fulfilling its desires. The problem is there’s just not enough variety with these actions, so what started off feeling whimsical ended up feeling quite repetitive.

The game does open up a little once your Dot is an adult. You can visit a real-life landmark known as a Habitat – which is a bit like a PokeStop in Pokemon Go – and send a request to breed your Dot with any other Dots that have been put on display there. On the flip side, you can leave your own Dot on display so other players can breed their Dot with yours (but be prepared for the endless stream of notifications if you do this).

It’s a cool concept that adds a nice social element to Peridot, as you’ll never quite know what you’re going to get when you merge two Dots together. The game also encourages you to discover (or ‘collect’) all of the different Peridot Archetypes that affect the design of a Dot, like a Banana or a Unicorn, so if you’re a completionist you could easily spend months unlocking everything in the game.

Unfortunately, this is also where my main problem with Peridot stems from – while I haven’t got to this point yet, Niantic states that players will “need to purchase a nest in order to Hatch-a-Dot”. These Nests cost £4.99 in the UK at the time of writing, which is a pretty heft cost to perform one of the game’s key functions. There is one free Nest in the shop right now, which should be enough to give you an idea of whether this game is right for you or not, but for anyone who does continue to play Peridot in the future, those payments could easily rack up.

Of course, Peridot is a free-to-play game, so there was always going to be some form of monetization involved. But while other Niantic games like Pokemon Go have typically made sure that the basic gameplay remains free, it seems as though Peridot is putting a core gameplay loop behind a paywall. It’s an unusual decision, and I’ll be interested to see how this affects the game’s longevity.

Personally, I don’t see the value in spending money to repeat the same process over and over. Despite the promise of every Dot being completely unique, when I used my free Nest to hatch a second Dot, it looked almost identical to Oscar, other than the fact it had a different color scheme. Had I paid for this, I probably would’ve been pretty bummed out. The thought of raising another Dot isn’t really filling me with excitement, either, as the game doesn’t currently provide much incentive to do so.

Right now, Peridot feels more like a novelty than a meaningful experience that could keep me coming back every day – especially not when I’d have to pay real money to breed more Dots. I had fun messing around with the different AR features and I did grow fond of my adorable Oscar, but after just a week with the game, I’m already losing interest. If anything, it just makes me want to play Pokemon Go even more.

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