What if you could run a zoo without having to shovel all the animal manure that inevitably comes with running a zoo? Tap Zoo, a social game for the iPhone, lets you manage a garden of cartoon animals that never smell, run away, yell, or munch on toddlers. Those reasons alone make a good case for downloading the game (even if you might actually be put off by the inability to feed kids to lions). Tap Zoo is in fact a lot of fun, and is as addictive as any of its social brethren, but it has a few scars that keep it from ranking with the very best in a crowded market.
In Tap Zoo, you begin your animal adventure with a tiny patch of land and a gorilla or two. The goal is to set up as many animal enclosures as possible to attract visitors and garner a high grade. You can add to your fuzzy family by breeding two animals of the same species, and even by cross-breeding two different species to concoct a crime against Nature.
Someone should call the Humane Society.
Running a zoo means more than throwing an old goat into a cage and collecting dosh, though. You also have to set up snack stands, install sidewalks, hire staff– oh, and people will complain if you neglect to build a few restrooms. Sigh, the public is so demanding.
Each animal brings in a certain amount of revenue after a marked amount of time. The revenue, “coins,” can be used to buy more land, more facilities, and more animals. You can invite friends over Facebook and visit each other’s zoos.
The animals are cute, and the game is fun to poke at for short amounts of time. Emphasis on “short.” There’s not much to do while you’re sitting around waiting for your animals to cough up coins, waiting for your baby animal to be born, or waiting for your zoo’s land mass to expand. To pass the time, you can pick up trash that patrons throw on the ground. You can also swear at them, but they won’t hear you.
Don’t forget to lock the nest.
Another problem with Tap Zoo is the cramped space with which you must work if you’re playing on the iPhone or iPod Touch. This becomes a big problem when it’s time to lay down sidewalks, fences and rivers; you can barely see where you’re putting anything. What’s more, laying down those paths means selecting the appropriate piece from the game’s menu over and over. Want a piece of sidewalk that runs from West to East? Pick it out from the menu. Then another. Then another. Need to go Southwest? Go back to the menu, find the piece, and lay it down. Repeat.
There’s also an issue with the prerequisite game currency that you must buy through microtransactions. In Tap Zoo, it’s “Stars.” Certain animals and bonuses can only be purchased with Stars, but don’t count on getting many by just playing the game. Whereas most social games throw buyable currency at you for completing certain tasks or levelling up, it’s tough to get a freebie in Tap Zoo.
As far as social games go, Tap Zoo is a success: it’ll keep you coming back, and it’ll compel you to strong-arm your Facebook friends into joining. It’s free to download, so there’s no harm in trying it out. But between Tap Zoo’s slow pace and troublesome building mechanics, it’s questionable how much attention you’ll give it next to your social favourites.