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The zookeeper concept has long been a staple of puzzle games, and it can be found not just on iOS, but on multiple consoles, as well. The addition of Zookeeper Battle to the family of games brings new interactivity not usually found in puzzles, as you play the same puzzle, but against opponents from all over the world.
How does this new Zookeeper game stand up against its predecessors? Is it different enough to set itself apart, or is Zookeeper Battle the same old match-three with a new gimmick? We’ll take a look at the gameplay and the battle system and see if it’s worth the download.
Zookeeper vs. Zookeeper
If you’ve played Zookeeper, whether on your iPhone or on a console, you’ll know the basics of Zookeeper Battle. Even if you’ve never played a Zookeeper game, the gameplay is similar to Bejeweled and other match-three puzzle games — swap tiles, in this case animal faces, to make matches of three or more.
What sets Zookeeper Battle apart is just that, the battling. You make as many matches as you can as quickly as you can while your opponent is doing the same thing in real time. Some animals will boost your attack, while other bolster your defense. At the end of a round, you and your opponent go at each other; the higher your attack and defense scores, the better you’ll do.
Winners and losers are decided by the amount of health you’re able to knock off of each other’s meter. Empty out your opponent’s health meter first, and you win; if it goes the other way, you’re going to lose. If it looks like it’s going to be a draw, the game will choose a winner at the end of the fifth round, based on the amount of health each player has left.
There are some power-ups to help you out and cause some pain to your opponent. A heart tile will refill some of your health at the beginning of the next battle, which is incredibly helpful if your meter is running low. The bucket tile spills sand on your opponent, causing all of their tiles to turn gray at the beginning of the next round and making it difficult to create matches. A zookeeper tile adds lots of useless tiles to your opponent’s board, but a flashing tile will stop on a random animal when tapped and clear all tiles of that animal from your own board.
Playing to Win
There are three modes of play. I mostly stayed in the global battle mode. There were no shortage of global opponents, and you can see where you’re ranked against all the other players. There’s also a friends mode that will set you up against only your friends, but they have to be active players. A third practice mode let’s you get your footing before stepping into the ring.
As you gain certain achievements, you’ll be awarded prizes, such as greeting messages or background pictures. Most prizes are cumulative, but there are a few that are temporary, referred to as quests. Complete the goal in the limited time frame, and you’ll automatically get the prize. The prizes aren’t really good for anything other than bragging rights, and it’s nice to pull out that fancy greeting when facing off against a noob.
Making the Most of Freemium
There are a few items you can purchase to make gameplay a bit easier or even possible. Boost items, available through in-app purchase, make it a whole lot easier to win a round against an opponent. If you just can’t make a match, the shuffle boost will help you out. There are also boosts to brush away the sand on your tiles or to get the zookeeper boss drunk.
Even more important than the boosts, though, are the power bottles. Each battle costs one CP, and power bottles replenish CP. If you run out of CP, you won’t be able to continue battling without purchasing more CP power bottles. The game really becomes almost unplayable without the in-app purchases.
I love Zookeeper and was really looking forward to Zookeeper Battle. No doubt, this is a fun little game, but that comes with some caveats. I’m all for tossing a few coins down for apps I really like, but to remain competitive against power players in Zookeeper Battle, you really need to keep shelling out for boosts over and over again. To even play, you’re going to have to start putting some serious money into this app before long, too.
I lost most of my battles, because I didn’t want to pour money into the game. And losing isn’t a lot of fun. I probably would have enjoyed Zookeeper Battle more if I’d been on a level playing field against friends, but it hasn’t been picked up that widely yet, unfortunately. I did still really have a lot of fun, but that fun was short lived.
If you’re already playing Zookeeper or other match three puzzles and are looking for more of a challenge, I would recommend giving Zookeeper Battle a try. If nothing else, it adds an element of interactivity puzzle games usually lack. However, if you just like animal matching fun, you might want to stick to regular old Zookeeper.