Fight it out in the animal kingdom with Zookeeper Battle

Zookeeper Battle is a new iOS game from Japanese developer Kiteretsu Inc, and the latest entry in the long-running Zookeeper series of “match-3” puzzle titles. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store.

Zookeeper Battle’s basic gameplay mostly subscribes to the Bejeweled school of match-3 puzzling. Players may swap colored animal tiles around in an attempt to make horizontal or vertical rows of three or more of the same animal. When this happens, they disappear. If more than three animals are matched simultaneously, the player receives a score multiplier for that move according to how many additional animals were included in the match. Unlike Bejeweled, players are also able to make another move while the previous one is continuing to resolve, allowing them to quickly react and set up chain reactions for massive scores.

While previous Zookeeper games have been largely single-player titles focusing on completing puzzles and attaining high scores, Zookeeper Battle focuses on social play. Players are randomly matched with other online opponents and then thrown into combat against them. Instead of gaining points from making animal matches, players accumulate attack and defense points according to the animals matched — hippopotamuses and elephants increase defense, while all other animals increase attack. A specified “lucky” animal contributes to both attack and defense, and this changes each round.

Each round lasts for a short period, after which the players’ attack and defense scores are compared and each does damage to the other’s life bar. If one player depletes the other’s life bar, they are declared the winner. If the match goes on for too many rounds, the winner is determined by whoever has the most life left at the end of one final round.

The game monetizes through sales of Power Bottles, which are used to replenish the player’s “CP” (energy) bar. CP are required to participate in battles and gradually replenish up to two over time. The bar may be filled up to six points using power bottles, however, five of which are provided to the player upon starting the game for the first time, and others being available via in-app purchase. It’s also possible to acquire various different booster items through in-app purchase, helping the player to get out of potentially sticky situations — though it’s worth noting that none of these are game-breaking or guarantee victory, meaning that players most certainly can have an enjoyable experience without having to pay a cent.

Japanese influences shine through in every part of the app, from the stylized, pixelated graphics to the over-the-top attack animations via the fact that players are encouraged to politely greet their opponents before and after each match using a selection of predefined phrases. It’s a game that has clearly been designed to bring joy to its players, and that in turn will doubtless encourage them to keep coming back for more time and time again — and potentially throw some money at it as a result of the goodwill it has built up.

More than that, though, Zookeeper Battle is an excellent example of a quality mobile game that makes good use of the technology. It is a highly social, friendly game that is particularly suited to quick play sessions, and provides a robust monetization framework for the developers to earn some money from their work. The respected name of the Zookeeper franchise will help it to pick up a strong user base, meaning it will likely enjoy some long-standing success among fans of puzzle games. While some players would doubtless prefer for there to be no play-throttling system in place, the recharge time for the CP/energy system is not significantly long, making the game ideal for “pick up and play” sessions while in the middle of something else.

Zookeeper Battle is currently ranked at No. 252 in Top Free Apps, No. 92 in Top Free iPad Apps, No. 92 in Top Free Games and No. 46 in Top Free iPad Games. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps.