Have you been coping with an emotional void ever since your Tamagotchi died in 1999?

Good news: the ever-popular digi-pet is back – in the form of an Android app! And iOS users, fear not – the iPhone app is currently under development, and you too will soon have the opportunity to care for your very own digital pocket pet.

For those who read the paragraph above and are clueless as to what I am referring, let me bring you up to speed on the excellence that is a Tamagotchi.

The year was 1996 and Akihiro Yokoi of WiZ and Aki Maita of Bandai were hard at work in Japan getting ready to release one of the biggest 1990s crazes – a handheld digital pet. The Tamagotchi was an egg-shaped computer keychain with an interface of three buttons that served a variety of purposes to care for the digital pet growing and thriving inside the tiny plastic microcomputer. The early models featured a black and white pixelated screen and a internal speaker to produce beeping, serving for both communication and alerts.

Still confused? Here’s more back story: A Tamagotchi is a small alien species that was deposited on Earth as an egg to see what life was like here on this planet. It was then up to the keychain owner to raise the egg into an adult creature. The alien would develop differently through its growth stages depending on how the user cared for it.

If well taken care of, the tiny computerized alien would be happy, healthy, and require little care once it reaches adulthood. If not, well, a mischievous, unhealthy, attention-seeking alien would begin wreaking havoc.

If you recall, the original device caused controversy in many elementary, middle, and high schools due to the fact that if left unattended for six hours or more, a Tamagotchi would die. This posed a problem because the average school day is, well, longer than six hours – meaning,if a student was unable to get to their digi-pet at lunch, recess, study hall, etc., they would have to start over the next day after having lost their friend.

Clearly these original tenders to the Tamagotchi alien race did not want to  abandon their pets, such negligence resulting in an inability to explore our planet and an untimely death. So they did what any good-hearted person would do: they would oftentimes try to secretly attend to them during class time. But this caused disruption, and eventually led to many schools banning the devices completely.

Creators, er, inventors of the Tamagotchi responded by producing later versions of the device with a “pause” feature, allowing owners to temporarily suspend the tending to of their pet before resuming their caregiving when they got home, with no harm done to their beloved digi-creature; thus the tending to the alien race continued for years to come.

In fact, egg-shaped models are still in production today, but with the increased shift to smart phones, users can ditch the keychain version for the app, allowing for all the same fun without the added bulk in pocket content.

Tamagotchi L.i.f.e – which stands for “Love Is Fun Everywhere” – is the name of the newly released Android app and is available at the low, low price of: FREE! Or $0.99 if you would like to forego ads. The emulator perfectly resembles the layout of the original (visible plastic housing and all), with an optional interface available to view full-screen.

The app has a rating at 3.7/5.0 stars based on nearly 2,700 reviews, thus far. The Google Play store reports that the app has been installed between five-hundred thousand and a million times. Demographic analytics show that this blast-from-the-past app has been a huge hit among twenty-somethings.

Strangely, I personally don’t recall ever owning a Tamagotchi, which is making me wonder if I was some kind of an outcast and a loser in the late 1990s, deemed unfit to tend to the futuristic race of alien visitors. I also admit that I have not had the opportunity to download this app to redeem my lacking childhood because I am an iOS user. Though recalling memories of the original gadget and speaking with others my age brought me a sense of pleasure to recall memories of when caring for a digi-pet was the most of a child’s worries, and potentially the most of a twenty-something’s worries once again.

This article by Brennan Donnelly, originally published in the Erie Reader on Mar. 20, 2013.