Thanks to this Tamagotchi-like critter care game I now believe that bugs can be cute too

Bugaboo Pocket - a virtual pet showing a purple and yellow rubber ducky isopod wearing a blue flower hat
(Image credit: Elytra Games)

Your bugs are going to die. I feel it's important to let you know that from the start. Bugaboo Pocket is a Tamagotchi-like game about cultivating bug species to revitalize the environment after your evil corpo bosses destroyed it, and inevitably you're going to say goodbye to them all, give them a nice burial and epitaph, and then raise their progeny. It's a circle of bug's life out there.

Bugaboo Pocket is planning to fully launch sometime this year, but it's got a demo available right now that I've been thoroughly sucked into. It begins as I flee the fire that destroyed my lab, taking with me just one bug larva to raise in a remote cabin. I initially assume it's just a pill bug, though I now know he's a rubber duck isopod who I name Bront (they're good bugs, Bront) and care for in his terrarium by feeding, petting, and picking up after him. 

(Image credit: Elytra Games)

Oh, and I also have to give Bront proper enrichment by using him as a pachinko ball and building a precarious arcade bridge and forcing him through an endless runner tunnel. There's not as much rest for bugs as I'd thought. He does get to wear hats, but only after he's grown into an adult bug with a large enough noggin for the lovely blue flower to perch on.

Aside from playing minigames to win bug poop currency to decorate his terrarium with, I'm also learning about Bront by trial and error. When he's small, clicking to pet him makes him curl up and hide, but once he's larger I can tap his thorax to pet him—though he doesn't like being pet on his head or lower thorax, I learned. And eventually I pet him too many times in a row which made him dislike being pet at all anymore according to my journal. Sorry, Bront.

Each bug has a tarot card reading for some reason, and grow into personality traits like "cheerful" and "posh." There seems to be a whole list of unlabeled needs meters that I imagine I'll begin to uncover in the full game.

Eventually Bront dies, so I bury him in the garden outside, write a nice message to mark his place, and hatch a new larva he left behind.

(Image credit: Elytra Games)

Based on my time in the demo, Bugaboo Pocket occupies a sort of weird not-quite idle game status where I don't feel I'm meant to walk away and leave it running but also don't have things to do constantly during Bront's 30-ish minute lifespan. I imagine I may find myself busier once all three of my terrariums are occupied and I'm chasing down specific goals for raising bugs with different traits. I can't wait to raise some giant, colorful moths and weirder insects.

Bugaboo Pocket is shameless about its bug love and I'm totally taken in by it. I expect it's going to have plenty more to say in its mysterious background story about corporate environmental exploitation too.

Elytra Games plans to launch Bugaboo sometime in 2024 but you can go on and play the demo yourself right now to raise your very own cute but doomed isopod.

Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.