Zoo Invasion is kind of like Bejeweled, with its match-three roots. Nexon's new puzzler is also kind of like Tetris in its verticality and insatiable need to get to the bottom. But it's kind of like Puzzle League, too, in how you rearrange various critters to make bigger matches. Throw all that into a vat filled with the most saccharine sounds and shapes that Eastern culture has to offer, and you have one helluva puzzler.
Like the best puzzle games on Facebook, Zoo Invasion inspires the kind of compulsion that drives you to either bug your friends for more hearts to play with or simply whip out the credit card and buy more. That kind of ... inspiration is thanks to a number of things that Nexon seems to have done right with Zoo Invasion.
For one, it's the snappy play hook that equally rewarding as it is punishing. In Zoo Invasion, players control an adorable alien that pulls up, or abducts, several kinds of cubed critters in order to rearrange them so as to connect at least three. Of course, doing so destroys them, which they're always visibly scared about. Players can pick up as many as two of the same animal at a time, which eventually teaches players to go for matches much larger than three at a time.
But be quick about it! Each round in Zoo Invasion lasts a mere 60 seconds, inspiring lightning reflexes and pinpoint accuracy out of players that truly want the high score. Sure, this framework--combined with weekly leaderboards--has been done by countless puzzle games before, but it simply works. Without a similar system, much of what compels us to play more simply wouldn't be there.
It's tough to ignore the desire to best either your own time or your friends' in Zoo Invasion. That's especially so when your friend's avatar literally crushes yours on the leaderboard whenever that friend beats your score. It doesn't help that Zoo Invasion has seemingly mastered that easy-to-learn-hard-to-master play hook that's essential to any iconic puzzle game. We mean it--achieving a high score in Zoo Invasion is downright difficult.
If you can't manage triggering Fever--a flashy score multiplier effect that occurs after a few matches in quick succession--in a round, you're probably not going to beat your friends' best. This is especially problematic considering power-ups have yet to make it into the game, but we expect that when they do they'll only serve to spice things up. (They're currently teased as "Coming Soon!")
Aside from that missing feature, Zoo Invasion is one finely crafted puzzle game on Facebook. It draws from some of the best in the genre to cobble together what makes for the action-packed, skill-based and glitzy game experience that social gamers seem to expect these days. Just make sure you're with lots of friends to avoid falling into the red. Remember what happened when you got hooked on Bejeweled Blitz? Yeah.
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