CrowdStar Learns Facebook Zoology with Zoo Paradise

Zoo ParadiseOver the weekend, popular developer CrowdStar released a brand new Facebook app, Zoo Paradise. However, this one isn’t following the recent trend of city-builders. Rather, it’s an iteration on the “tycoon” concept. After the successes of RockYou’s Zoo World, who could blame the developer, as the zoological wonder not only reached #8 in this past month’s Top 25 Facebook Games, but is one of the contributors to the developer’s current popularity.

Nonetheless, Zoo Paradise is a lot like its predecessor in the core sense. The idea is to build the best looking zoo one can while coaxing the little computer-player patrons to spend as much money as they can.

The game is actually simple enough that there is no real tutorial, merely a giant purple arrow above the “Shop” icon. From here players can purchase animals, habitats, concessions, and decorations for a very reasonable price. However, based on the player level, only a limited number of these (save decorations) can be purchased at any given time.

Zoo ParadiseAs for the level itself, it seems that most of the experience needed to increase it is done by buying and placing new items. Periodically, players must also feed their animals and even water certain decorations such as a handful of trees. Also, all habitats and concessions seem to be upgradeable.

Unfortunately, Zoo Paradise is a bit of a slow burner. When first starting the game, players are able to pick up coins that were presumably dropped by customers. Nonetheless, no new ones were ever dropped during play, when we played and not once did a customer buy anything from a concession stand. Likely, since the game is in beta, this is merely a bug, but if it isn’t, then it certainly is a significant turn off to the game.

Zoo ShopThankfully, the lack of new income from the in-game currency (Zoo Coins) wasn’t too terribly hindering, as the game’s decoration’s panel in the shop has a fairly sizable collection of plants, bushes, rocks, and so on, that only cost anywhere from two to 15 coins, making it easy for the player to get started aesthetically.

This is a good thing too, as the game actually looks very nice. Everything has a sort of overly cute and saturated look to it (complete with great big watery eyes for the animals). All the habitats are animated as well as the animals who move about in a fairly believable fashion, for a Flash game anyway).

Of course, all this movement also corresponds to the zoo visitors as well, and while their wandering presence makes the game feel like a bustling park, their pathfinding AI isn’t exactly refined yet. These guys constantly walk out into the middle of nowhere, including through decorations, and at one point, every single one got stuck in the entrance and couldn’t enter. As a side note, multiple animals in a habitat seem to get stuck, too. Again, all are just beta bugs, but something to be aware of nonetheless.

Facebook CreditsAnother curious point, is that this CrowdStar title actually doesn’t use its own virtual currency. Instead, it makes sole use of the Facebook Credits system, directing you to a Credits purchase screen if you try to buy the currency. Only a low percentage of items require Credits currency – about one-third of each section. That said, however, there isn’t exactly a large selection of items yet, so it is currently a bit limiting. For example, there are only three habitats – jungle, savanna, and polar – and the savanna costs 67 Facebook Credits, leaving a player that doesn’t want to spend money with very few style choices.

In regards to social ramifications, the game is typical of about any CrowdStar game, or any other virtual space type of app, for that matter. Players can send each other gifts, publish feeds to adopt rescued animals, send gifts, and visit each other’s zoo (to help out) via a leaderboard system. Nothing out of the ordinary, but why fix what isn’t broken?

Overall, Zoo Paradise isn’t too shabby. Especially considering its traffic — somewhere in the neighborhood of 112,000 monthly active users already. The game looks good, and it plays well (even if it is a bit slow). Moreover, despite its initial bugs, it was actually thoroughly enjoyable. We look forward to seeing a cleaned up version in the near future.