Animal Blitz review

Animal Blitz is a Facebook game from Thai developer Sanook Online. It showed up as the No. 15 emerging Facebook game earlier in the month.

The first thing many players will notice about Animal Blitz — depending on the speed and quality of their connection — is how long it takes to load, because at several minutes, it is very noticeable. Not only that, but the game doesn’t appear to cache its information locally on the user’s computer, meaning that this lengthy load time occurs every time the game is started. And to make matters worse, the game frequently breaks to load when switching between menu screens or starting a new round — surely with an initial loading break of that length, the game could have minimized in-game load times. Lengthy load times are not particularly conducive to a feeling of “pick up and play” so this may set a negative first impression for some players.

Fortunately, once the initial loading is done with, Animal Blitz proves itself to be a fun and competent, if totally unoriginal, puzzle game. It’s a match-3 puzzler of the Bejeweled Blitz mold, requiring players to match horizontal or vertical lines of three or more animals to “rescue” them in order to score points. Like Bejeweled Blitz, the player has a limited amount of time in which to score as many points as possible, but unlike PopCap’s title, the player may earn time extensions during play by matching a certain number of a specific animal — Bejeweled Blitz only allowed the player to purchase time extensions with soft currency before the game begins.

Again like Bejeweled Blitz, matching four or five animals at once produces a special tile — matching four creates a glowing animal which explodes and takes out the tiles around it when it is matched, and matching five creates a bomb that destroys all instances of the tile it is swapped with on the board. Each game starts with one of these in the lower-left corner of the board for use in emergencies — if the player has not used it by the end of a round, it is automatically used in a mechanic similar to Bejeweled’s “Last Hurrah” system.

In terms of social features, the game features a leaderboard on which players may compare their performance against either their friends or the worldwide player community. It’s also possible to directly issue challenges to friends using a limited number of “versus” tokens, and gifts may be exchanged with friends to help encourage repeat play.

The game monetizes through two currencies which may be used to purchase various items. Additional animal types may be purchased and added to the game — these give the player double points when matched — but expire after 15 days. Similarly, new backgrounds may be purchased for score bonuses and a reduction in the number of animals required to earn a time extension, but again these expire after 15 days. Finally, five different types of consumable powerup may be purchased to perform functions ranging from swapping all animals of one type to another random one to sweeping away all animals in a column. All items may be purchased using either soft currency earned through play (which cannot be purchased) or hard currency (which can). The soft currency prices tend to be extremely high, so it will take a lot of play to be able to earn enough for even the cheapest items. Meanwhile, the game provides enough hard currency to new players to let them try out one of the animal or background “rentals” and have enough left over for a few consumable powerups. It doesn’t specifically point players in the direction of the shop via a tutorial, however, so it’s up to players to figure this out for themselves.