The must-have toy of the 1998 holiday season was Furby, a somewhat adorable robot who would speak in “Furbish” until its owner taught it one of six different languages. Flash forward 14 years and Hasbro’s Furby is making an impressive comeback.

What does this have to do with iOS? A lot actually, as one of the toy’s strongest selling points is that it interacts with an iPhone/iPod touch or iPad using the universal Furby app.

For the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to experience Furby. Or rather, I observed as my 5-year-old daughter interacted with her new best friend, a yellow hamster/owl-like creature with an attitude.

Say hello to Furby

Furby 2.0

Furby 2.0

Unlike the previous version, Furby 2.0 comes with LCD eyes that are in constant motion depending on what it is doing. Additionally, one look at Furby’s tail and you know whether it is happy, sad, or simply bored.

Furby comes in what looks like an oversized Chinese food box that also includes a handle at the top. Unfortunately, Samantha proved the uselessness of this in about 30 seconds.

Let me stress: If you want to keep Furby’s box, be sure that you are the one that removes the toy. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a stack of recyclable cardboard. Like most toys, Furby is so attached to the box that removing it can prove difficult, especially for children who like to rip apart things.

Furby's box before its demise

Furby’s box before its demise

Once Furby is removed, and you insert four “AA” batteries (which aren’t included), the real fun begins. Each Furby is said to develop a distinct personality based on the way kids play with it, and this is correct.

From the time our Furby first opened its eyes, it was clear that this creature had a loveable, yet immature attitude that needed immediate attention. At first, my daughter was apprehensive just like most children are with real pets initially. However, once I explained to her the ways you could interact with Furby, things moved along smoothly.

Furby is advertised for children six and older, which sounds about right. In addition to “testing” Furby with my 5-year-old, I also watched as my 4-year-old nephew used it. The differences were striking.

Not only was Brady somewhat scared of Furby, but also it soon became apparent that he grew tired of all of the “Furbish” talk coming his way. By contrast my daughter, who is one year older, and thereby seems more able to focus, had the patience to make Furby her friend.

In other words, if your child is four-years-old or younger, find another toy.

Interaction

Furby App

Furby App

Furby reacts to everything around it through sound and touch. As such, you can feed it, speak to it, tickle it, or even play music for it. But as I noted earlier, how you play with it will determine what type of pet it ultimately becomes.

Play nicely with Furby and that will guarantee that it will learn to play the same. Turning Furby upside down, or shaking it often, by contrast, will mean a much more agitated creature going forward.

Now, about that Furby app, which is free in the App Store.

Although Furby will work just fine without the app, using it only enhances the entire experience. The app comes with three primary functions.

The first, and most used by my daughter, is Pantry and Deli mode. As the names suggest, these include food items that can be virtually fed to the Furby. To do so, the child selects from a visual gallery of food items, and then feeds it to Furby through a swipe of the finger.  Sometimes the results are quite interesting.

For example, feed Furby some moldy cheese and you should expect something much more disgusting thrown back your way. Give him a sandwich with onion and cheese and Furby’s eyes will light up as he shakes with enjoyment.

The Furby app also comes with two additional tools, a Furbish to English dictionary, and a Furbish to English translator. Using each and your  child will figure out what Furby is saying, and also help the toy learn and speak English.

Both tools, which work quite well, may need some parental assistance, depending on the age of the child. My daughter, for example, had difficulties with some of the words listed, both in English and Furbish.

Nonetheless, the feeding tool alone makes the app a must-have for any Furby owner.

Price and availability

Furby is available in 10 colors including: aqua, black, navy blue, pink, plum, purple, tangerine-tango, teal, white, and yellow. However, some of the models won’t actually be available until November.

Each Furby retails for $59.99, although Hasbro is currently offering them for $54.99 online.

I highly recommend Furby to anyone with a child 5-years-old or older. In particular, Furby is ideal for families that use iOS devices, since the Furby app only enhances the experience.