Zookeeper World is a glimpse at life without free-to-play restrictions – Destructoid

If there is one video game genre that has thrived and flourished since the advent of the smartphone, its the match-3 puzzler. I still remember watching my aunt sit for hours at her Gateway PC playing Bejeweled almost 20 years ago, a game that, at the time, cost $20, which is arguably an absurd price to ask for the genre today. But it was huge, and with the arrival of the iPhone andCandy Crush Saga, its easily one of the most played and well-recognized genres today. Its why every few weeks or so, another big match-3 title launches with a licensed IP attached to it.Disney Wonderful Worldsis a recent example, and while that game hasnt yet been deleted from Pixel 3A, its tough to go back to the restrictive free-to-play model after spending a month with Zookeeper Worldon Apple Arcade.

TheZookeeperseries of puzzle games is one Ive never really bothered with but have always admired due to its simplistic and charming art direction. For whatever reason, the cover art forZoo Keeper on the Nintendo DS lives rent-free in my memory. I just cannot escape the charms of those square animal heads.

When it was revealed the series would be making the jump to Apple Arcade, I was immediately interested if only for the fact Id properly burned myself out onPokmon Caf Mix. I thought maybe Id simply had my fill of match-3 games for the time being; that I would need to find another casual genre to focus on. However, following six straight hours of playingZookeeper World, I realized it wasnt the genre I was tired of, but the free-to-play machinations.

If you havent downloaded it yet or dont subscribe to Apple Arcade,Zookeeper Worldtakes the familiar iconography of the original title and its mobile game variants and applies them to a format thatll be more recognizable for people who spend hours trying to grab perfect score in any of KingsSaga puzzle games. This isnt a big board youre continually trying to clear, but rather, 200 uniquely designed boards with increasing challenges. Youll start easy by collecting enough of a certain animal to clear the goal, but it isnt long before the game starts throwing cages, baby birds, tightly secured jars, and more your way. By the time you reach the last set of puzzles, youre praying youll be able to drop the crown piece onto the conveyor belt early enough that its able to move over to its exit point before you run out of moves.

So basically, if youve played something likeJuice Cubes, you should know exactly what youre getting into here.

Now, ifZookeeper Worldwere a free-to-play game, there probably wouldnt be much to talk about here outside of the adorable zoo you build with your puzzle winnings. But because its not a free-to-play game with the predictable restrictions that go along with such a scheme, there is really no limitation on how much you can play. And subsequently, no limitation on how much this game can suck you in.

Zookeeper Worldlaunched on Apple Arcade early last month, and the only reason Ive gotten around to writing about it now is I finally finished collecting every damn star in the game so far. There are 200 puzzles to complete with more on the way. Each puzzle has an objective you need to complete, with a star earned if youre able to chain together enough matches or finish the puzzle quickly enough that your remaining moves are turned into explosive fruit pieces.

With a free-to-play game, theres a limit on how many times you can lose before you have to pay or wait. As anybody who plays these types of games can tell you, theyre designed to make you lose.Zookeeper World is no different, but because its on Apple Arcade, those free-to-play shenanigans are nowhere to be seen. And I can just keep playing for hours and hours on end, which is exactly what I did last night to get that final damn star.

Make no mistake, there are still some player engagement schemes that feel ripped straight from the free-to-play playbook, including randomized prizes, weekend play bonuses, log-in bonuses, and time-sensitive boss battles. The game would be far better without them, but with the more common play restrictions removed, all thats left is an addictive puzzler that I can sink literal hours into every night. And thats all I could ever want from the match-3 genre.

I was going to take a break fromZookeeper World now that I got the final star, but right after I finished the draft of this write-up, the game updated to add 50 more puzzles to the mix, as well as the camel and hippo animals. So I guess its back to the zoo for me.

CJ Andriessen

Just what the internet needs: yet another white guy writing about video games.

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Zookeeper World is a glimpse at life without free-to-play restrictions - Destructoid

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