Virtual pet sim Weyrdlets is like Animal Crossing on your desktop, except you might get some real-life work done too

When I was a kid, one of my absolute favourite things to do on the PC was to mess around with a free virtual Felix – like the cat from the cat food adverts – who would roam around the Windows XP desktop, chasing balls of string between program windows and curling up to take a nap on the taskbar. I have no idea where the game came from – a dream, perhaps – but 30 years later, I still think about it as a perfectly formed way to lose hours on the PC without actually doing anything.

For that reason, a first glance at Weyrdlets initially had me worried. It’s more of a game than that virtual cat simulator, but scratches that same moreish itch of drifting into a zen-like state while watching a virtual pet just wander around and do its thing on your monitor screen. It seems like the kind of thing I could lose hours to without realising, looking up from the slightly clay-like animals’ idle digging for treasure to find night has turned to day or that it’s still 3pm, but the date has skipped forward.

Developers Weyrdworks seem to understand that there’s a dangerously distracting appeal to staring at colourful little oddballs just doing their thing, so they’re aiming to flip that power of procrastination into something a bit more productive. As well as being an Animal Crossing-style life sim you can casually mess with around whatever else you’re doing – with your pets able to use the treasure they collect to buy new clothes, snacks you can feed them and items to decorate their adorable island home with – Weyrdlets can also be used as a productivity tool, letting you set timers, create to-do lists and log a daily reflection in the company of your desktop pal using a set of handy widgets.

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The life sim elements are all a lot less demanding than something like a Tamagotchi, though you’ll still need to chuck your pet a bit of food, give them some fuss and keep them active unless you can stand the guilt of seeing a sad little face hover on your screen. You can send off some encouragement in a bottled message to another player’s screen too, which is a cute Kind Words-like social touch.

It’s a neat mix of much-needed wholesome distraction and actual real-life utility that I can’t help but be drawn to – even if I know, deep down, that I’m far too much of a sucker for cute virtual critters to truly hone my focus on working while there’s a fun little lizard there to pet.

Weyrdlets has a demo on Steam now, if you’re curious to try it out yourself, with the full thing arriving on July 23rd.

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