Playing Shroomchitect reminds me of caring for my childhood Tamagotchi

For most of my childhood, Tamagotchi and I were inseparable. I dabbled in my virtual sprite, feeding it and cleaning up its mess – I was glued to the tiny toy. I had the orange model, and for most of the late 90s, I wore the keyring on my finger like an oversized ring; at that age, even five minutes seemed like an eternity. But one fateful day, I hit the Tamagotchi too hard. It flew off my finger and crashed right into the wall, and that was it. It was dead, and my parents wouldn’t let me take another one. For years I have tried to replicate that feeling of caring for passive little sprites. And I finally found something similar in a tiny game on Itch.io called a mushroom designer.

Shroomchitect, developed by PUNKCAKE DĂ©licieux, is an atmospheric simulation game where players are given a tiny mushroom in three to five “mushrooms” live. These mushrooms vibrate in the shadow of their mushroom, ready to receive instructions. They have various needs (which are tracked with counters), and taking care of them requires them to eat, sleep, collect materials and chat – the last of which is adorable because they get tiny thought bubbles like “Elliot was so funny to talk to!

Tamagotchi

In this sense, they are very similar to Tamagotchi but are suitable for adults. I can say this because I recently tried playing with the Tamagotchi again and was genuinely put off by how frequent and loud the beeps were. (Also, I have a lot more sympathy for my parents now.) Fungi’s needs are much more interesting: they can build structures on their mushrooms, as well as campfires and beds. They can grow food for themselves, and their conversations add a little intimacy to the relationship you build with them.

Aesthetic touches are also soothing. The sound design is like submerging my brain in tea: when the mushrooms talk to each other or snore, the sounds are little musical notes. Passive sounds of nature loop in the background. The pixel graphics are discreet and charming.

The game also has a nice hook, discreetly built into the game loop. At the same time, the gathering is primarily for finding food. And materials sometimes results in players finding another mushroom. This opens up a new “game” in which fresh mushrooms must be controlled. So if you’re tired of one set of Shroomies, access to another is just a few menus away. Add to that the fact that caring for them is less terrible than Tamagotchi – they won’t die if you leave them unattended – and you have the perfect, cold formula.

All this creates an atmospheric experience reminiscent of tiny virtual companions, and all without the fear of breaking a physical object – given that I still remember it, the death of my Tamagotchi was probably the primary memory – or bothered by their constant beeps. Mushrooms live in my computer, in their little virtual mushrooms, ready to visit me when I have a minute.

 

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