Disney Playdom is taking its third foray into the popular hidden object game genre with its newest release Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers, an “edutainment” take on this particular style of puzzle adventure. Players will find themselves exploring African, Asian and American habitats in order to track down a variety of real creatures while learning facts about them.
Disney Playdom has previously enjoyed a great deal of success in this genre, with Gardens of Time being named Facebook’s number one title of 2011 and recent title Blackwood & Bell Mysteries picking up over 2 million monthly active users. Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers doesn’t deviate significantly from the format established by its predecessors — the tutorial follows the exact same sequence of events as in the other games, and the screen layout is identical — but the educational angle adds a welcome twist which makes the game particularly appropriate for parents and children to enjoy together.
As with most other hidden object titles on Facebook, gameplay alternates between the hidden object scenes themselves and decorating a personal space in order to earn enough points to unlock new levels. In the case of Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers, the player is building up a nature reserve and populating it with animals, trees, plants and tribal huts. All of the animals and trees are real species, and the quests which guide placement of them teach players about various creatures’ habitats and feeding habits. Visuals in this part of the game are rather cartoony and clash a little with the more realistic depictions seen in the hidden object scenes, though it does at least keep things clear. The isometric perspective occasionally causes problems, however, as it becomes impossible to click on completed building projects to unveil them if objects have been placed in front of them.
The hidden object scenes come in two distinct flavors — animal-spotting and story-based. The latter scenes present more traditional hidden object gameplay, with players searching through mountains of discarded junk in order to inexplicably locate a wrench, an African mask, a rainspout and a clock — though the story does often at least attempt to justify why players are searching through the garbage, which is more than some rival titles do. In one level, players might be cleaning up a village after a poacher invasion; in another, attempting to recover items of lost luggage. Players unlock powerups over the course of the game which help them locate tricky objects. These are useful, though the game is a little too hasty in nagging the player to use one, with a large and very distracting green arrow nudging them in the direction of the powerup panel after just a few seconds of inactivity.
It’s the animal-spotting hidden object scenes that are the highlight of Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers, however. Players are presented with a list of different animals to find in the scene, and are provided with additional hints on how to find them alongside the other powerups. Clicking on an animal’s specific hint option shows a picture of the animal as it appears in the scene and also provides the player with some trivia about the creature in question, thereby enabling them to learn as they play. The narrative context of the animal-spotting scenes is also educational — for example, in one early level, players are invited to witness a mass migration of animals following heavy rainfall on the African plain.
There is a lot of content in Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers already, with the game’s story unfolding across six chapters, each featuring five regular hidden object scenes and one “Premium” scene to unlock with hard currency. Social features are a little underdeveloped, however, with visiting friends’ preserves being a largely non-interactive process that simply rewards players with soft currency and experience for turning up. There is a robust leaderboard system for each scene, however, encouraging friendly competition between players — though it would perhaps be nice to see some sort of global leaderboard as well as just for Facebook friends.
There’s very little that is new or innovative in Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers — it’s very clear that the game is pretty much a reskin of Gardens of Time and Blackwood & Bell Mysteries — but the educational angle gives the game a distinctive flavor and makes it particularly family-friendly. Its recognizable Disney Animal Kingdom branding will also ensures it finds some a loyal fanbase among those who have visited Florida’s giant zoo.
As a new Facebook game, Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers is not yet listed on our traffic tracking service AppData at the time of writing. Shortly you’ll be able to follow the progress of its monthly and daily active user counts along with audience estimations and other data, so check back soon for the latest analysis.
While its core gameplay may be totally unoriginal, the educational content of Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers makes it worthy of note.