Disney Toy Story
Virtual Alien


We have not had a chance to test this pet, but due to the interest of several of our readers, we have posted some info from Disney, plus an excellent review of the pet done by one of our readers. We wish to thank James for such a detailed review of this new product. His review will be very useful to many of our readers as they try to decide which pet to get next. THANKS James!!


"A galaxy of fun awaits with the Toy Story Virtual Aliens, featuring three aliens to care for: Alien, Alien Bird, and Alien Dog. The CLAW picks out different "alien winners" of a 15-day vacation in Buzz Lightyear's spaceship. Then, it's up to you to feed them, play with them, and make sure they get plenty of fresh air and exercise! Features include lifelike animation, sound effects and silencer, different exercises for each alien, and more. "


On Tue, 6 Jan 1998, James wrote:

 I got a virtual pet for Chistmas which I didn't see listed on your page.  
 It is from the Disney Store and goes under the trademark of 
 'Virtual Friends (TM)'  Here's some info about it...

 Front cover of the package:

      Toy Story 
 VIRTUAL FRIENDS (TM) Space Explorer
 * 3 different space creatures to care for: Alien, dog and bird
 * Extensive life-like animation on jumbo screen with sound efects
 * Special features: PAUSE function and BEST RECORD memory
 * Play, excercise, and feed your intergalactic space friends
 * Different excercises and activities for each space friend
 * Play interactive target games to capture UFOs on radar
 * Choose regular or power sleep time
 * Watch out for the "CLAW", as it tries to kidnap your friends
 * Batteries included
 Back cover of the package:

 VIRTUAL FRIENDS (TM) Space Explorer
 Here's your chance to help Buzz Lightyear care for some out-of-this-world
 space friends!  Help an Alien, a Dog, or a Bird escape the evil CLAW, and 
 your new friend can spend up to 15 days on an intergalactic vacation in
 Buzz's spaceship!

 Remember, while on vacation you have to take good care of your Friend by
 feeding them (but not too muc!), playing interactive games with them and
 making sure they get plenty of excercise.  Make sure they get clean air and
 lots of oxygen in the space ship, and don't forget to check your friend's 
 health and happiness so they can have a great vacation with you and Buzz.

 And when it is time to return to its home planet, your friend will board the
 space ship and blast off to ... "infinity and beyond"!

 The back also has 6 pictures of scenes from the game 
 [ The "CLAW" in action ] [ Target Game ] [ Spaceship blasting off ] 
 [ Happy Bird - dancing ] [ Alien - eating pizza ] [ Dog - rolling over ]

 The toy is by 'Thinkway Toys (New York)' and manufactured in China.


 The instructions are on the inside of the package and are quite long and
 detailed compared to some virtual pet instruction's I've seen (I haven't
 seen many though.. one went as far as saying "When you see this [Japanese
 characters here] that means your pet is hungry" ... ).
 The device is a keychain style virtual pet with a relatively sturdy-looking 
 chain and latch.  It's shape resembles Buzz Lightyear's Space Ship (from the 
 movie "Toy Story"), about 7 cm tall, 5 cm wide (minus wings... plus wings 
 it is just over 7 cm wide) and just under 2 cm thick.  
 The LCD screen is 3cm x 3cm with the top and bottom showing the different
 function icons and the 3cm wide by 1.5 cm wide region in the middle is a
 29 x 16 pixel display.
 There are 4 buttons, small but spaced wide enough apart for big fingers 
 to press them.  The buttons are labeled as such:
        []    []             []     []
   Select >  < Select       Skip    Enter
 When you pull the tab to start the game (or hit the reset button on back)
 you have to set the clock and choose between KG amd LBS.  The screen displays 
 a cute opening animation showing the ship's air supply being filled and then 
 you'll see the 3 possible creatures you'll be taking care of.
   [ 3-eyed alien from "Toy Story" ]
   [ A 3-eyed dog with an antenna ]
   [ A 3-legged ostrich-like bird ]
 The CLAW (see 'Toy Story' for the reference) will come down and take two of 
 them at random ... the one remaining is the one you take care of.

 The SELECT buttons scroll through the 8 function icons.  The following is 
 a quick description of the functions (the instructions provided in the 
 package are more detailed)

  Feeding [ pizza-shaped icon ]  --  Obviously, aliens only eat pizza :-)
     Each meal increases your pet's weight and adds one to it's "HUNGRY" level.
     The pet won't eat if full.  Extra uneaten food somehow contaminates the 
 Sleeping [ sun-shaped icon ]   --  Turn on/off the light for the creature
     Should be turned off when sleeping otherwise it'll get sick.
     Automatically turns back on when the creature awakens.
     You can select 'SLOW' or 'POWER' sleep..
     'SLOW' means the creature will sleep from 9PM to 7AM on the toy's clock.
     'POWER' will accelerate the toy's clock by a factor of 60 (only when the 
     creature is sleeping) so it will only sleep about 10 min 'real time'.
  Game [ target symbol icon ]  --  Shoot down rebel UFOs.  Use SELECT < > 
     to move the radar around.. when you see a blip on the radar hit ENTER 
     to fire.  The blip doesn't stay in one place very long.  
     3 out of 5 hits and the creature's 'HAPPY' level goes up by one.  
     4 or 5 out of 5 and the creature's 'HAPPY' level increases by 2 units.
  Air [ swirly-shaped icon ]  --  You can select 'Filter' or 'Oxygen'...
     Use 'Filter' cleans the air (you see specks on the screen when it needs
     filtering).  Use 'Oxygen' fills the air tanks.
  Clock [ Clock with electrons orbiting it icon ] -- This is the 'pause' 
     feature.  Turning this on will make the display show the word [STOP]
     and will stop the toy's clock as well.
  First Aid [ First aid cross icon ] -- Press this and a UFO-shaped ambulence
     will zip by to help the creature (if it is sick).  If it is NOT sick it
     will shake it's head to say 'no' at you.
  Mission Log icon [ Document shaped icon ] -- View two types of stats.. 
     'PET' info and 'DATA' info.  
     - 'PET' info is Age, Weight, and 'Best record'.  
     - 'DATA' info is its 'HUNGRY' level (shown as 0-5 slices of pizza), 
       'HAPPY' level (shown as 0-4 happy faces), and HEALTH is shown as a 
       horizontal bar not unlike that for fighting-style video games.
       Also mentions if the creature is over or under weight.
  Excersize [ Space Bar-bell icon ] -- This differs with the 3 creatures:
     Alien -- Catch space balls
     Dog -- Catch flying saucers (frisbees)
     Bird -- Jump hurdles
  The more done in 15 seconds, the more health is added to the health bar.  
  Each time the creature excersizes it's weight drops and its "HUNGRY" level
  goes down... also the air will need filtering faster.
  Attention [ triangle-shaped icon ] -- shows up only if something is wrong
  *  When its HUNGRY level too low ... or over/underweight
  *  When its HAPPY level too low
  *  When sick (also, a '+' will appear on the screen)
  *  When air is dirty (also little specks will appear on the screen)
  *  When 1 1/2 of the 3 oxygen tanks are empty 
  *  When THE CLAW appears
 The Claw --
  The claw appears from time to time to try to take away your creature.
  To make it go away you need to play an win (3 out of 5 or more) the 
  target game.  The longer you wait to play and win the game, the closer
  the claw will get.
 The instructions are generally pretty good but have a few minor deviations 
 from the game:
   The instructions say:  
   "With each meal eaten your Frien's weight increases by 1 oz. (30 g.) 
   when the weight drops below 5 oz. (150 g.) it is under weight and the 
   attention icon lights up and beeps."
   In reality:
   The weight is displayed in pounds or kilograms.  Each feeding tends to
   increase the creature's weight by one kg (or 2 lbs.).  Also... the
   level for when a creature is over or under weight depends on the age
   and may even depend on the creature.
   The instructions say:
   "The maximum age for any Friend in the spaceship is 15 virtual years (or
   15 earth days)."
   In reality:
   Unlike some other pets I've seen, this one display's the creature's age
   in days instead of pretending 1 day = 1 year.  Besides... the premise is
   that the pet is on vacation on the ship... who (besides retired people)
   takes 15-year vacations.
   The instructions say:
   "The evil CLAW is always out to kidnap hungry or unhappy space creatures."
   In reality:
   That claw has a habit of coming randomly... even when the creature is 
   healthy and happy.
 Notes about this virtual pet:
 * It is futile to try to synchronise the toy's clock with real time.  
   The "PAUSE" feature stops the toy's clock.  The "POWER" sleep feature 
   accelerates the toy's clock 10 hours in about 10 real minutes.  And even
   if you didn't pause or use POWER sleep, the toy's clock isn't very good.
   Mine runs 10 minutes fast every real hour.
 * The pause feature is a real life saver (for me and the pet) especially 
   since the time gets so out of whack.  As I type the time is about 12:57 PM
   real time but my pet's time is now 7:21 PM.  A stick-on label on the 
   packages calls the pause feature a 'Parent and Teacher-Friendly' feature.
 * There is no way to check the oxygen level without actually trying to fill
   the tanks.
 * The game is one of the better virtual pet games I've seen.  It is actually
   a challenge instead of a pure game of chance or a simple guess..  Still, 
   it would be nice if there were more than one game to choose from.
 * The premise of the creature being on vacation would be perfect if it weren't
   for one minor flaw... the creature is apparently growing and getting bigger.
   The dog I had nearly tripled in weight.  If it is only staying for up
   to "15 days", why is it getting so much bigger?

 * The creature displayed looks the same while on the ship.  Although this is
   consistant with the "15 days" hypothesis I'd like to see the creatures 
   change as they grow.

 * I like the fact that they chose a little first-aid icon instead of a
   hypodermic needle icon like some other virtual pets use.  I'd prefer that
   my children learn to call a doctor when someone is sick rather than to 
   simply inject someone with drugs when sick.
 * If you press the first three buttons together you get a little easter egg..
   The screen displays in two pages: 
                       ------------    ------------
                      |    THINK   |  |  (C) 1997  |
                      |     WAY    |  |            |
                       ------------    ------------
 * Too much fiddling with pressing multiple buttons actually caused a glitch
   in my game resetting it and even erasing my 'Best Record'.
 * The package refers to Disney's web site  www.disney.com  but I couldn't
   find instructions for the toy at that site.  I did find a picture of it
   at  store.disney.com   Use the Gift Finder and select 
       to   'Toy Story'
       to  'Toys'
       to         'Child'
   The toy pictured was a little different shape than the one I have.
   The pictured toy is taller (or skinnier) than mine... has the display a 
   little closer to the top compared to mine... has a different color 
   keychain and buttons (my keychain is silver, my buttons are all red)...
   and has the word 'Buzz Lightyear' across the front which mine lacks.
 * This is the first virtual pet I've ever had so I can't do many comparisons
   to others (I've 'babysat' a few others though... Nano-Kitty primarily).
   It's a cute and fun toy but I think I'll be yanking it's batteries pretty
   soon (or letting friends try it out).
 * Ending:
   I can only guess there are two endings to the game.  Either the 'CLAW' will
   snatch up the creature, or it'll fly back home in Buzz's space ship.  
   I've only had the toy since christmas .. the first alien I had got grabbed
   by the CLAW in 2 days when I left it un attended while sorting pictures for 
   about 2 hours.  The second creature I had was the one that got lost when
   it was 9 days old after I experimented with pressing multiple buttons.
   The third and current creature I have is the bird.  So far I haven't gotten
   to the space ship ending.

Editors comment: the photo James mentions is the one shown at the top of this page.

This page was created 8 January 1998

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