App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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Tap Zoo could have been something interesting. It could have been a well made zoo sim with one of those ever-popular in-app purchase models. It could have been anything, really. Instead it's just another game that siphons its content off at an excruciating pace unless players shell out real money for nonexistent items.
Building and maintaining a zoo is the name of the game, so to speak. Acquired animals will produce a set amount of coins (in-game currency) within a set amount of time, depending on the animal, and once two of the same creature are in the zoo they can be bred in order to create more of the cuddly coin-dispensers. Any in-game purchases also earn experience, with higher levels unlocking new animals, keepers, decorations and so on. It takes a while without the use of stars, which are purchased with real money, but it's do-able. As long as it's understood that certain things will forever be out of reach without the use of real-world money.
To its credit, Tap Zoo looks pretty good. The graphics are bright and colorful and the animals are all super-cute with giant doe eyes. There's also a very extensive bestiary with lots of common, not-so-common and even a few fictitious critters to put on display. An in-game award system also gives players a bit more direction by suggesting different objectives such as breeding specific animals or purchasing a set number of decorations. Completed tasks will earn coins and experience, and occasionally open up new objectives.
Unfortunately there's also a lot of wasted potential here. Unlike a real sim, players don't do much aside from purchase an animal then decide where to place it. Zookeepers can be hired, but all they do is increase the population cap and bestow a bit of experience. There are no enclosures to build or maintain, no need to monitor a visitor's mood and no micromanaging of any kind. Heck, even the concession stands are only good for a one-time boost of experience. Multiple structures can be purchased for larger gains, sure, but they don't actually do anything.
Considering the game's namesake, I'd at least expect the touch controls to be somewhat polished. They aren't. Tapping on an animal when it's next to another one, let alone several, is a complete crap-shoot. Even when zoomed in to a ridiculous degree it's still possible to select the wrong thing. Fortunately it will only cost players patience as a game such as this can't actually be lost (or won), but man is it ever annoying. It's even more irritating when attempting to remove litter (the one action that doesn't require waiting for several minutes/hours to attempt) since the carelessly discarded food wrappers and whatnot as so small. It's taken me several tries to pick up the stupid stuff virtually every time unless it's in the middle of a large open space.
I'm certain there are people out there who will find Tap Zoo to be a worthwhile time-sink. Anyone who legitimately enjoys the "freemium" model will probably like playing the zoo version of that other game they've already been playing for months. I just think it's too simplified and drawn-out to hold the average player's interest for more than a minute or two. If that.