For most of my childhood, my Tamagotchi and I were absolutely inseparable. I doted over my virtual sprite, feeding it and cleaning up after its messes — I was basically glued to the tiny toy. I had an orange model, and I spent much of the late 90s wearing the keychain around my finger like an oversized ring. I would fidget with it, and swing it around, awaiting the next notification; at that age, even five minutes felt like an eternity.
But one fateful day, I swung that Tamagotchi a little too hard. It flew off my finger and smacked right into the wall, and that was that. It was dead, and my parents did not let me get another one. For years, I’ve attempted to replicate that sensation of tending to passive little sprites. And I’ve finally found something like it in a very small game on Itch.io, called Shroomchitect.
Designed by PUNKCAKE Délicieux, Shroomchitect is an atmospheric sim game where players are given a tiny mushroom inhabited by three to five “Shroomies.” These Shroomies vibe under the shade of their mushroom, ready to be given directions. They have various needs (which are tracked via meters) and caring for them requires directing them to eat, sleep, forage for materials, and chat — the last of which is absolutely adorable because they get little thought bubbles like “Elliot was so fun to talk to!”
Image: PUNKCAKE Délicieux
In this sense they’re much like Tamagotchi, but appropriate for an adult. I can say this because I recently tried to play with a Tamagotchi again, and I was genuinely put off by how frequent and loud the beeping reminders were. (I’m also now much more sympathetic to my parents.) Shroomies’ needs are much more interesting: They can build some structures onto their mushroom, as well as campfires and beds. They can garden for their own food, and their conversations add a bit of intimacy to the relationship you build with them.
The aesthetic touches are also soothing. The sound design feels like steeping my brain in tea: When Shroomies speak to one another, or snore, the sounds are little musical notes. There are passive nature sounds looping in the background. The pixel art is low key and adorable.
The game also has a nice hook, built quietly into the play loop. Though foraging is primarily for finding food and materials, it occasionally leads players to find another mushroom. This opens up a new “game,” with new Shroomies to manage. So if you grow tired of one set of Shroomies, accessing another is just a few menus away. Top this off with the fact that caring for them is less terrifying than Tamagotchi — they don’t die if you leave them unattended — and you have a perfect, chill formula.
It all adds up to an atmospheric experience that feels like having tiny virtual companions; all without the fear of breaking a physical object — given that I still remember it, the death of my Tamagotchi was probably a core memory — or being bothered by their incessant beeps. The Shroomies live in my computer, in their virtual little fungi, ready for me to visit whenever I have a moment.