Freemium games are very popular in the App Store at present, allowing people to experience a major title without necessarily making a purchase. One such title to came to my attention is Wonder Zoo — an app that draws you in with its well-designed graphics and intriguing storyline.
In Wonder Zoo, a poacher has snuck into the reserve and stolen all of the animals. Whilst making his escape, his vehicle broke down and the animals have fled into the wilderness and are unable to be found. Now the Ranger needs your help in bringing them back home where they belong. Are you up for the challenge? Let’s find out!
Wonder Zoo launches with one solitary springbok who has been left in a state of shock by the poacher. Your first task is to calm the springbok down by feeding it an apple; part of a brief tutorial to help you get to grips with the basic controls.
Navigating around the game is intuitively easy. Simply drag your finger along the screen to pan the camera, pinching to zoom in and out.
Working for Peanuts
In order to progress through the game at a reasonable pace, you will need Peanuts; Wonder Zoo’s premium currency. Used to speed up certain activities, Peanuts can be bought via an in-app purchase from as little as $1.99, although a small amount will be automatically awarded to each new player upon launch.
In addition to Peanuts, Coins are also integral to creating a successful zoo, and are needed to purchase buildings and decor, as well as expanding the land. Coins may be earned through completing Quests or generated by animals and buildings over time.
Catch Me if You Can
Animals can be found roaming around several places on the map, accessed by tapping the Wilderness icon under the Tools bar. Injured animals need to be caught and nursed back to health in the safety of the zoo, and are identified by the red cross hovering above their head.
To catch a casualty, you must chase after it in the jeep, keeping your finger on the circle around the animal until it turns from red to green. Doing this will ground that particular animal to a halt, where you will then be presented with a choice of three foods to tempt the animal to you, each displaying its chance of capturing that animal, percentage wise. Food with a 25% and 50% chance of success cost a varying number of Coins, while food with a 100% success rate costs Peanuts.
Once captured, a helicopter will take that animal back to the zoo and release it back into its pen, ready to receive medical attention.
Just like a real-life vehicle, the jeep needs fuel to power, so keep your eye on the petrol gage in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. If you run out of gas, you will be given the option of refuelling, which will set you back a couple of Peanuts, or returning to the zoo. Fortunately, each time you re-visit the Wilderness, the jeep will automatically be filled up with fuel again, leaving you to spend your Peanuts on something a little more worthwhile.
Wonder Zoo provides a list of Quests that need completing in order to make the zoo whole again, such as finding a certain species of animal, or purchasing a specific building. Once you have completed a Quest, you must manually tick it off the list where you will then be rewarded with Coins and Experience Points, and presented with another Quest.
Quests may seem easy at first, but as the game progresses, you will soon discover that you won’t be able to complete many more without purchasing extra Peanuts from the Shop.
Managing the Menagerie
Animals need feeding regularly, which in turn will reward you with Coins and Experience Points. Experience Points come in the form of blue stars and are used to level up, unlocking new buildings and animals in the process.
There are many different types of animal to be found in the game, ranging from lions and monkeys to Bigfoot and even the Loch Ness monster! Rare animals can be bought from the Shop in exchange for Peanuts, and lots of them, which is mildly annoying as it means spending a significant amount of cash on Peanuts just to buy a single rare animal. In my opinion, this could be improved by allowing players to earn Peanuts in addition to buying them.
In the Nursery
When you have more than one animal of the same species, those animals may breed. This is achieved by visiting the Nursery building, selecting an empty crib, and then tapping on the desired animal. Breeding takes time which varies from animal to animal, but can be speeded up with Peanuts for instant babies.
In some instances, two different types of animals can breed to form a different species entirely. For example, breeding a lion and an eagle will create a gryphon, or crossing a fox and a lizard will result in a basilisk.
Connecting to Wonder Zoo via Facebook or Gameloft Live will enable you to visit the reserves of friends and other players. While visiting a reserve, you can help that person out by collecting from their buildings or animals which will earn you a small amount of Hearts.
Hearts are Wonder Zoo’s social currency, which can be used to buy decorations for your zoo from a friend’s reserve. Simply tap on a decoration to purchase and the game will automatically transfer it to your own reserve, ready to place.
Wonder Zoo is pretty similar to every other freemium simulation game that takes place in a zoo, but that’s not to say it isn’t fun to play. The ability to cross-breed two different species of animal is interesting to say the least, and I particularly enjoyed zooming across the Savannah in a jeep, capturing injured animals and returning them to the reserve.
I found that Wonder Zoo took quite a while to load, especially when launched for the first time, which dampened the experience somewhat, but other than that it’s a simple yet addictive game that players will most likely find themselves returning to time and time again.