Everybody loves a pet, but what if that pet is a shopaholic? PetVille is Zynga’s latest Facebook hit and tackles the wonderful world of pet care. Only in this case the pet cares less about chasing a stick and more about buying it a new TV and some wall art. This pet lives in a house, and they want you to make their house a home!

Raising a virtual pet has far less to do with actual pet care than you might think. Sure you’ll wash and feed your pet, but from there things start to look decidedly more… human. In fact, it’s a lot like raising a teenager. Clothes and half eaten food litter the floor, dead flowers sit in vases, and all they ever want to do is visit their friends and go shopping. It’s up to you to keep your little tike on the straight and narrow.

Cleaning the house is a little like playing the easiest hidden object hunt ever. Rotting food and dirty clothes will be scattered around every room of the house, and you’ll need to click on each item to remove them from the scene. If you’ve missed one, the game will let you know. And it’s never hard to find a missed item – there are usually flies buzzing around on top of it to tip you off.

Visiting friends usually consists of a neat little interaction of your choosing followed by – you guessed it — more cleaning. Your friends pets are just as messy as yours, so you can spend some time taking care of their mess as well. But why would you want to play virtual housemaid for all of you friends and neighbours? The same reason you’ll do anything in PetVille; money.

Every little task you tackle in this game comes with a payoff of cash. Pick up a banana peel? Here’s 3 coins. Feed your pet? Come back when his bowl is empty for more coins. High five a friend? You better believe that’s worth some coins. And these coins are important, because despite the gameplay mentioned above, PetVille is really only about one thing: shopping. Your pet wants clothes, furniture, vehicles – you name it, your spoiled little princess wants it. Use the coins earned to decorate your home, dress your pet, and check out a massive assortment of goods to buy for your little greed demon.

When you break it down, there really aren’t that many activities to tackle in PetVille. It may sound like a lot, but you’ll be able to complete a daily PetVille visit in 5-10 minutes while tackling everything the game has to offer. The only thing we haven’t mentioned is the Bubble Pop mini-game, and that’s simply because it’s too dull to even consider worth mentioning. When compared to the depth of a game like Pet Society, PetVille feels surprisingly shallow. It’s almost as if PetVille was designed to be the Pet Society clone with a different audience in mind – the type of Facebook gamer who wants to dabble in an experience instead of getting lost in one. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Just not what we were expecting from a pet game from Zynga.

The visual polish in PetVille is outstanding for a Facebook game, and nowhere is this more noticeable than in customization options for your pet. Rather than selecting a certain species, cycling through a few facial features and being done with it, you’ll create your own animal from different shapes, colors and elements and end up with a completely unique creature in your care. In my case I fiddled around until I created something that resembled a lion cub. Your end result doesn’t have to look like a specific animal, but it was fun to task myself with an idea and see if I could follow through with the options available to me. PetVille came through with flying colors.

In a game that’s more about shopping and decorating than anything else, variety and visuals are key to the products success. Much like the character creation, the quality of the content is more than we could have hoped for. When shopping for living room pieces alone there must have been well over 100 items to choose from. Furniture to fit every taste, electronics from every era, and classic paintings and posters with a unique PetVille twist filled the store. I quickly found myself drawn in by certain items that appealed to my sensibilities; a 70’s style TV that reminded me of my childhood, a poster parodying the now classic Obama “hope” imagery, an arcade cabinet to stick in my kitchen (just like I’ve always wanted!) From costumes to cars and everything in between, PetVille offers up a tremendous shopping experience that can be revisited every day thanks to a fairly generous coin-earning system.

People are going to be quick to draw comparisons between PetVille and its chief rival Pet Society – heck, we even did it a few times in this review. Yet despite numerous similarities, PetVille is a unique game that stands on its own. Is there a clear influence taken from Playfish’s super popular pet game? Absolutely. But with its unique visual style and smaller range of gameplay elements, PetVille provides a nice alternative for gamers looking to dabble in the pet gaming craze without going all in.