During Summer Game Fest Play Days this past weekend in Los Angeles, I got a sneak peek at Niantic’s new AR-powered mobile game, Peridot. While at first glance it may seem like Niantic’s attempt to create their own version of Pokémon, Peridot is actually much closer to a pet simulator like Nintendogs or Tamagotchi. Ironically, Peridot’s core gameplay loop involves raising and breeding creatures – a feature the core Pokemon series is known for but has yet to make its way into Pokemon Go. While my hands-on time was short, I was impressed with the augmented reality features, which far exceed the interactions possible in Pokemon Go today.
The Peridots, called Dots, are outrageously cute. Their giant Beanie Baby eyes and amorphous Squish Mallow body give even the most adorable Pokémon a run for their money. I’m almost disgusted by how valuable these things are, and wouldn’t be surprised when the game goes live if there’s a massive merch boost given the variety of types of dots you can create.
Unlike Pokemon, Peridot doesn’t offer a collection of custom-made, handcrafted creatures to collect. Instead, each point has a specific set of physical characteristics that manifest themselves as the creature matures. You can think of Dots as Chaos from the Sonic Adventure series, both in terms of their physical traits and the way you pass those traits down through breeding. Some features are rarer or more unique than others, and finding those traits that blend into your dots is a big part of the social and fitness aspects of the game. Niantic specifically mentioned a unicorn horn as an example of a rare trait that players might want their Dots to acquire through breeding, either with other players’ Dots or with Dots found in the wild.
This is what the general life cycle of a point looks like. Once hatched, you will need to raise your dot to maturity before it can breed. You have a checklist of goals to complete with your dot, such as: B. feed him, play fetch and take him for a walk. Once mature, it’s time to start looking for a mate. You then start over by hatching a new Dot while your previous Dot is released into the wild to give nearby players a chance to breed with it as well. Niantic says that although you must let go of your Dot to raise a new one, you can always recall your previous Dots for a visit if you miss them.
Peridot is played entirely in AR, so you can always see your magic pet walking around on the ground or floating in the air if they have this ability. Unlike the AR mode in Pokemon Go, Peridot brings creatures to life in a really impressive way. Not only can you walk around on the actual ground, but you can also navigate around obstacles to an extent. I was playing in a crowded restaurant and my dot was running around my feet and out into open areas, dodging tables and chairs. Eventually, it collided with a potted plant, but the game recognized the collision and rendered it with a dotted silhouette, creating the illusion that the creature was actually behind the plant. I’m curious to see how the dots behave in different environments and rooms, because what I’ve seen so far is already miles ahead of anything we’ve seen in Pokemon Go.
Farming items like food and toys is a big part of Peridot, but instead of spinning PokeStops, your Dot will find the items for you. If you draw a circle with your finger, your Dot will dig up some items in that spot. The game is able to distinguish different types of surfaces with remarkable accuracy. When I drew a circle around the aforementioned potted plant, the game recognized it as vegetation and my Dot jumped in and returned with items specific to that surface. Dots can also search for objects in water, like lakes and oceans, and while I didn’t take the phone into the bathroom at Niantic’s request, I’ve been told that given the right conditions, you might be able to send your Dot down the toilet, which I guess Looking for.
Feeding your Dot and retrieving with it is impressive in AR too, but at this point in the demo I noticed that the Pixel 5 I was using was starting to overheat. Without a case it was almost too hot to hold comfortably. Peridot is slated to be played entirely in AR, and it seems like it’s draining the batteries like it’s no one’s business. Niantic admits it’s still working to overcome this. I’ve been told that the game runs really well on iOS devices at the moment, but optimizing performance for a variety of Android devices is a work in progress, with Samsung and Pixel devices being the priority.
Performance concerns aside, I’m excited to see what a bold departure from Pokemon Go Peridot has turned out to be, and I can already see myself going for it in some of the slower seasons in Pokemon Go. Niantic has landed on something very special with the Dots themselves, and the AR capabilities feel incredibly advanced. If like me you’ve been obsessed with mythical animal husbandry since the Dreamcast days, Peridot is the game you’ve been waiting for.
Next: Niantic’s own version of Steam, Campfire, can fix the Pokemon Go Raid problem