While it might look like your typical adorable pet-raising sim, Conduit Labs’ Music Pets is actually only superficially similar to the likes of Pet Society and PetVille. Instead, think of Music Pets as a music game that doesn’t require fast reflexes or plastic instruments to play because it emphasizes discovering and collecting songs and sharing them with friends on Facebook.

The basic goal of Music Pets is to collect music tracks. Your pet, which you can customize by choosing attributes like gender, species and color, is your link to these tracks. You can send your pet out to “fetch” new songs to add to your collection based on favorite genres and bands that you gradually train it to recognize.

For example, when you set your favorite artist at the start of the game, your pet will be more likely to retrieve tracks from that artist or closely related artists. Later, as you gain levels, you can tell your pet to do other things like retrieve a song from a specific album, or even bring back something completely random.

You can also train a pet to recognize specific artists by playing a training mini-game that resembles Pachinko, where the goal is to light up all of the letters of a band’s name by dropping balls down into a pegged playing area.

Music Pets

Like most Facebook games, there are limits on how much you can do in a given play session before running out of steam. This even includes listening to the music you’ve collected, since you get a limited number of “plays” per day. Everything the pet does costs (and sometimes earns back) either happiness, energy or coins, and the way these actions are interrelated is really quite clever. Playing the pachinko game, for example, drains happiness but earns coins; visiting a friend’s pet’s house replenishes a bit of happiness but drains energy; and fetching drains energy but gives you a boost of experience points.

If other Facebook friends have also added Music Pets you can visit their pets’ houses and play tracks for them. You can also announce a new song you’ve just discovered on your Facebook news feed – of course this is completely optional, but it’s a great way of spreading the word on an exciting new band or killer track that you’ve just stumbled on.

Of course, a game about sharing music is nothing without a deep and varied catalog, and Music Pets delivers. Thanks to a deal that Conduit Labs recently signed with Universal Music Group, Music Pets boasts hundreds of thousands of songs, from genres and artists as varied as the grunge of Nirvana and Alice in Chains to the Irish folk music of the Dubliners, to chart-topping pop artists like Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and Gwen Stefani.

Music Pets

If I had three suggestions on what I’d love to see in future game updates if would be these:

1. I’m still not crazy about the way the game handles food purchases. Buying food to eat is a way to replenish energy, but unless you pay a steep premium for food to be instantly delivered, you have to wait a set number of minutes or even hours. If you miss the delivery window because you happen to not be in the game at the time, your order “expires” and you’ve just wasted your coins.

2. I also find myself wishing that the decor items you can buy to decorate your pet’s home were more interactive. In Pet Society, for example, if you buy a chair your pet can actually sit in it. In Music Pets, it’s just a pretty obstacle to walk in front of.

3. I wish there were more games to train my pet besides pachinko. I like pachinko as much as the next person, but it gets repetitive.

Gripe list aside, based on approximately a month of play time, Music Pets appears to be doing a lot of things right so far. The game is updated regularly with new features and refinements, and a lot of the issues we noticed earlier on – like long load times and crashes – have disappeared.

The bottom line? So far Music Pets is a standout in a sea of clones and “me-too” games on Facebook. Incorporating pets is a user-friendly and fun way of discovering new bands and musical styles, and the idea of a socially-oriented music game that’s based on sharing and listening rather than performance is thoroughly unique and interesting. True, the “Pets” part of the game could do with a bit more depth, but the “Music” part the true gem of Music Pets.