Playfish Keeps Rolling with Pet Society

By Chris Holt Comment

I never got into the Tamagotchi craze when I was a kid. Why would you play nurse to a poorly rendered fussy little alien? So I’m a bit leery about any pet-focused games on Facebook. But when I heard Playfish was doing a pet game, my opinions changed.

I’ve written in the past of the merits of Playfish’s games. To me, these guys are the Maxis or Valve of social gaming. Bowling Buddies, Word Challenge, and Who Has the Biggest Brain? are all quality applications and Playfish’s Pet Society, the company’s fourth title just released in beta, maintains the high standard. Pet Society combines the cute pet application with RPG elements to create an adorable, shiny, and deep application.

In Pet Society, you are given a creature to decorate and the ability to name your creature. Through beautiful Flash animation, customization is only a click away. Your pet is then placed in a house that you own, and you must maintain its happiness, health, and keep it well fed. These three statistics are kept in bars on the right hand side of your screen, and an experience bar sits on top. You get more experience the more you play the game, and this unlocks new features like more coins.

Initially, the house seems pretty confining. In your inventory, you can use such items as soap to keep your creature healthy and play a ball mini-game to keep him/her entertained. The TV plays clips from the other Playfish games – a very clever touch.

But once you leave the house, the game similarly leaves conventional pet adoption games and becomes something much larger. Your house is revealed to be part of a larger city with many municipal buildings, residences, and trees (full of coins, oddly enough). Navigating the city can be a bit confusing initially, and Pet Society’s beta status means that many of the features are “coming soon.” But it’s fun to step into a planned city that is already beginning to pick up.

The RPG elements become apparent quickly, like many quest-based adventure games you can buy most of the supplies you’ll need in the city. You can buy clothing and house decorations, interact with people in a soon-to-be-built café, engage your pet in competitions (again, coming soon), and interact with your friends in their houses.

You can also buy game money with real money through Paypal. “Reserving” land for your friends is Pet Society’s version of a friend invite, and it’s a clever way to make the game viral while maintaining the integrity of the experience.

Bottom line: it’s the first Flash RPG we’ve seen on Facebook that has major developers backing it. It stands on the shoulders of previous applications to create a clever hybrid that is well packaged and spiffy looking. It may run slow on some computers, and I worry that it doesn’t differentiate itself enough from its predecessors, but it’s definitely a step forward.

Developers: 8 (until they finish those features they promise)

Gameplay: 9

Originality: 5 (only thing I’m knocking them on here)