| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Animal crackers

The words, ‘Daddy, I want a pet,’ are guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of parents everywhere. We check out these life-like alternatives


Available on the PlayStation 3, the EyePet is a cheeky fellow who doesn’t require a daily walk and won’t leave hairs on your furniture. The surprisingly lifelike experience is created by a webcam (supplied with the game) that captures an image of you and your sitting room and it’s onto that image that the EyePet is projected. Wiggle your fingers and he’ll pounce or jump. Stroke him and he’ll fall asleep. Like all pets, he gets hungry, so you have to give him a bottle of milk occasionally – along with a few virtual cookies. Children under four would find this a real challenge in terms of grasping the concept – but it had our tester (almost five) whooping with delight. The great thing about the EyePet is that once kids have completed four tasks, like a real pet, he needs a rest. The only way to achieve this is to switch the game off, so junior has to go and do something different before going square-eyed.
Dhs199, Virgin Megastores (04 341 4353)

Hamleys Rolling Hamster

This sturdy little toy has huge novelty value and is robust enough to cope with a few more drops than the real thing. The concept is simple – once the motorised hamster is placed inside his plastic exercise ball, he’s off. Other than his realistic looks and his ability to whizz across the floor at high speed and get himself out of corners, there is little else to him. But that was enough for our testers who spent a very happy afternoon chasing him, shrieking with excitement and arguing who was going to play with him next. The battery life (one AAA) was also pretty impressive and we had a few hours of good play before wee hammy started to slow down. There are several versions of this toy on the market, but we reckon the quality of the Hamleys model is excellent and great value for money.
Dhs75, Hamleys, Dubai Mall (04 339 8889)

Koto the Triceratops

With his mottled, green skin, large eyes and penchant for plastic leaves, Koto the Triceratops (who is a chunky 75cms tall) is an unusual addition to the playroom pet store. Although he comes with a hefty price tag, he doesn’t actually do very much, and one can’t help thinking that after the first five minutes, the novelty might wear off. In terms of play value, he can be sat on and will happily endure a certain amount of bouncing (this results in the sound of him tramping through the jungle and will make his tail swing). His face, which is fitted with touch sensors, responds to being stroked, which gets you plenty of eye-blinking, horn swiveling and dinosaur grunting. He also opens his mouth to be fed leaves, a process which is accompanied by a very realistic crunching sound. But our tester, although initially captivated, soon moved on to the next toy in the box.
Dhs2,199, The Toy Store, Mall of the Emirates (04 341 2473)

Biscuit the Dog

This interactive Labrador puppy is so amazingly lifelike that your canine-mad kids won’t bother pestering you for the real thing again. A sophisticated robotic toy with numerous joints and sensors, Biscuit responds to being stroked by wrinkling his nose, sniffing, frowning, twitching his ears and making numerous doggy noises like barking, yelping, whining and crying with pleasure. He also responds to seven vocal commands, including ‘sit’, ‘lie down’, ‘beg’, ‘talk’ and ‘offer a paw’. In fact, the only thing he can’t do (which is a little disappointing considering his pedigree price tag) is go for walkies. What stands out about this toy is the wonderful attention to detail – from the furrowed puppy brow to the realistic paws and his waggy tail when you stroke him. Our tester, despite having the real McCoy at home, was smitten. And let’s face it, Biscuit doesn’t poop, chew the furniture, shed hair, need feeding, de-worming or house training. What parent – or kid for that matter – could ask for more?
Dhs1,720, The Toy Store, Mall of the Emirates (04 341 2473)

Zhu Zhu Hamster

We were a tad puzzled by the furore over these ‘toy of the year’ hamsters. How could such a creature, which does little else but scuttle, sniff and squeak (albeit with many different whimsical tones) be so outrageously popular? Then Nugget entered our lives – and while he may not be flavour of the morning with mum and dad (think 6am chatter and no ‘off’ button), he and our toddler tester are inseparable. Stroke him, he purrs contentedly, nudge his back and he’ll scoot off in multiple directions, investigating corners and making brave attempts to scale table legs, kiss his nose and he’ll prattle appreciatively. Nugget does pipe down on the rare occasions he’s left unprodded. But his novelty value and battery are yet to run out, and that’s without his myriad accessories, which include skateboard and ramp, boat and dock, car and garage, carry cot, wobble ball, wheel and his very own funhouse. We will succumb. Anything that provides this much amusement at such a bargain price is worth every dirham.
Dhs69, accessories Dhs39-129, Toys R Us, Dubai Festival City (04 206 6564)

Time Out Dubai,

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