Tap Petshop feels like an improved Tap Zoo, but it’s missing some key elements

It might be hard for the freemium faithful to believe, but it’s been nearly a year since Pocket Gems first released their hit zoo management game Tap Zoo on the iPhone. Since that time the company has gone on to release another big hit – Tap Pet Hotel – and readied one more animal loving freemium game for release. But is their latest offering, Tap Petshop, primed to be every bit the hit that Tap Zoo was?

In a lot of ways, Tap Petshop feels like the spiritual successor to Tap Zoo. Both games are about buying habitats for animals, breeding them, and collecting money at regular intervals. In fact the games are so similar that it seems as though Tap Petshop might have started life as Tap Zoo 2, but then received a name change and a new theme somewhere along the lines. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing mind you, because if this was a sequel, it would be one that’s made some significant improvements over its predecessor.

Tap Petshop

If anything, Tap Petshop plays like a streamlined Tap Zoo with a much prettier coat of paint. Animal animations are more consistent and detailed – you’re less likely to see a kitty cat just sitting still like you might have with a gorilla in Tap Zoo, for example. Likewise, when your animals breed you’ll actually see the new animal in the habitat, rather than having it indicated by a numerical value next to their home.

For better or worse, gameplay here is kept a bit simpler too. Instead of having to go into a menu to visit a nursery for breeding, or a store for buying new animals, players will be able to breed and buy additional creatures with a simple tap of their habitat. In fact, unlike Tap Zoo, you won’t need to buy breeding nests at all – breeding is only limited by the number of habitats in need of new critters.

Like many games of this nature, the experience is really limited by the number of things you can do. Seeing which whimsical habitats and adorable pets you’ll unlock next will definitely provide enough incentive for some to keep on playing, but at the end of the day, there’s really nothing more to do than claim money, feed, and breed. If you’re looking for anything deeper, you’re just not going to find it here.

It’s a shame too, because the notion of a freemium title about a pet shop could be a fun one. Players could have customers come in looking for certain kinds of pets and then sell them for profit. Or maybe they could work towards completing quests to fill specific orders or breed specific kinds. But none of that is here. In many ways, Tap Petshop is as barebones as they come. The game is even lacking in social features. When you click on the “social” tab, it lets you visit a single AI-controlled pet shop – and there’s not even anything you can do when you’re there!!

Of course one of the most important measures of a freemium game is how much fun it will give you to play with for free, and in this, Tap Petshop finds its biggest failing. Right from the very beginning, the game is presenting you with more options that demand premium currency than don’t. And the options aren’t too cheap – 10 “Paws” will cost you 99 cents, and while you might be able to buy one or two habitats for under this price, by level 4 we had options to spend 25, 50, and even 220 Paws on new homes for animals. Sure there are habitats you can buy with the free in-game currency – but with so many of the game’s choices locked away for premium currency, why would you?

Tap Petshop

Tap Petshop

As well, some of the stat balancing with the habitats just doesn’t make any sense. You can buy a St. Bernard Home for 6300 coins that gives you 6000 coins and 1070 experience every 4 hours, or you can buy the Chinese Water Lizard Lair for 14,000 that only gives 6700 coins and 558 experience every 8 hours. You’re paying more than twice as much for half the benefit.

Tap Petshop is game that’s truly hard to rate. On the one hand, it definitely feels like a big step up from Tap Zoo. With better graphics and streamlined gameplay, this is the kind of evolution a franchise needs to stay fresh. On the other hand, it’s a severely limited offering that’s missing certain key elements that any freemium game of this nature needs to survive, like social gameplay, quests, and a good selection for gamers who’d rather keep their money to themselves.

Fans of previous Pocket Gems releases are probably going to like what’s available here, but with so little to keep players engaged, it’s just too thin an offering to get really excited about.