Remember that scene from Adam Sandler's Billy Madison? We can't help but believe that Dream Zoo, Zynga's next big game for iPhone and iPad, was inspired by just that. Following Hanging With Friends, it looks like Dream Zoo is the second mobile game from the developer based on an original property (and the second game from the developer this week alone).
The game stays true to many of social gaming's tropes--managing a property, visiting friends to help out and taking on goals to advance--but throws in a few twists along the way that capitalize on the advantages of mobile. But for starters, your job in Dream Zoo is to turn a lowly zoo into the animal observatory of, well, your dreams. You do this mainly through breeding. It sounds weird, but this isn't National Geographic stuff we're talkin' here. (It's meant to be cute, which is certainly accomplished.)
Based on a preview courtesy of Zynga Mobile GM Sean Kelly, you're initially given a single, common gazelle. You can feed and wash this majestic creature, but more on that later. For now, you must breed it with another gazelle to move on. Doing so sends a stork your way (we did say it was cute) and, after a predetermined time that likely grows with new animal species, a more rare and valuable offspring appears. Repeatedly breeding the same species will eventually lead players to Champion Animals, the ones with all the pretty colors and patterns.
While there's plenty more to see in Dream Zoo, this is essentially the meat and potatoes of the game: the ability to make animals that you'd never see anywhere in the world. And, according to Kelly, Zynga Mobile spent a lot of time and effort to make sure that each and every animal in the game has its own animations and personality. The animals look and act like they want to be interacted with.
"There are lots of really cool interactions that the animals have. We did a lot to really make the animals interact with the environment, Kelly gushes to us. "The way that you interact with them on the device--touching them, by swiping to wash them or feed them is really a compelling experience for mobile users. Each animal will have a really distinct look and actually interact with each other. They'll explore the environment and sort of hang out together to provide a much deeper relationship that you have with your animals than in a lot of the other zoo games. You can see that [the animals] are really very expressive."
As you master animals and follow the game's goals, you'll earn access to new species. But you'll also need to keep the animals you have already in tip top shape. Players can feed and wash their (and their friends') animals with two separate mini games. The former has players pressing a button in time for a feeding bonus, which gets progressively more difficult the better players do. The latter simply allows players to scrub their animals with their finger for a cleanly bonus. Kelly tells us that more skill-based mini games are in the works to mix things up.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Zynga game without help from friends, but Dream Zoo handles this a bit differently. While you can add friends and post News Feeds via Facebook Connect, every player is assigned a Zoo Code. Players can enlist any Dream Zoo player to be their friend through this feature without any contact information. This feature alone makes the game plenty more kid-friendly than most social games, which should make parents happy. But Dream Zoo also brings something new to Zynga games: location-based gameplay.
This game touts a check-in feature that allows players, based on their location, to gain access to new items and exclusive animals. However, it's a luck-based affair, a slot machine representative of a safari that teases players with the ultimate dare: "You won't do it." Every spin of the wheel has the chance to produce a flat tire, forfeiting your winnings if you're unwilling to pay up the coins to fix it. Sometimes, it's actually worth it to pay up and move on, but that's for you to decide.
All things considered (and based on an early look), Dream Zoo looks like more of the same from Zynga in that it's another property management game. However, it's clear that Zynga Mobile did much to make that experience a tad more compelling with cutely animated and interactive animals and features like the safari. Like all Zynga games, Dream Zoo is free to play on both iPhone and iPad, and an Android version is in the works.
Click here to download Dream Zoo on iPhone or iPad for free on the App Store Now >
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