TeamLava gets into the cage with some cute critters in Zoo Story

Popular mobile social developer TeamLava has tackled a lot of genres over the past year. Farming, city-building, restaurant management – if it’s a genre on Facebook, you’d better believe TeamLava has their own mobile version on the App Store. Following suit, Zoo Story offers up TeamLava’s take on the popular social zoo management experience, with all of the usual charm and simplicity that gamers have come to expect from the developer.

Like most TeamLava games, there’s nothing really ground-breaking about the formula used in Zoo Story. If you’ve ever played Tap Zoo, Zoo World, or Zoo Paradise, you’ll know exactly what to expect here. Players will manage their own zoo, set up animal exhibits and attractions, and breed animals to increase their numbers. What makes Zoo Story unique, even if only slightly, is the feeding system in place. Players will need to farm their own crops, which in turn will up the amount of available food. That food, in turn, will be fed to the animals to keep them happy and get them earning money for you.

All of the staples of a good TeamLava experience are here: cute and cuddly visuals, catchy music, and simple social elements that don’t require you to have friends in the game to let you join in the fun. But what’s really great about Zoo Story is how low the wait times are when it comes to cashing out the earning of the animals.

Rather than offering up an assortment of zoo creatures with crazy long wait times, forcing you to wait hours (or even days) to turn in their earnings, nearly half of the animals here can be cashed out in five minutes or less. In fact, no animal’s wait time is ever more than 15 minutes. As a social gamer who’d rather spend five or ten minutes working my zoo rather than the simple 20 second glance that most social games demand, this is an absolute blessing.

The flipside, of course, is that every action you do in the game costs energy. So while there’s always an animal available to cash out, there are also a limited number of energy points you’ll have to spend. These recharge on their own over time, but if you’re the impatient sort, Zoo Story will let you refill your energy through an in-app purchase.

Like other TeamLava games, though, in-app purchases end up being Zoo Story‘s Achilles heel. If you only had to spend money on optional energy refills, that would be one thing. Heck – even locking away some select premium content wouldn’t be that big of a bother. But of Zoo Story‘s 22 available animals, only 5 can be purchased using in-game coins. The remaining 17 require you to use the game’s premium currency, “gems.” It’s a lopsided offering to be sure, and one that locks away any real incentive to return to the game exclusively for those willing to pony up the big bucks.

Zoo Story

We’re also starting to feel like it’s time for TeamLava to take that next step and introduce some fresh new elements that their current crop of releases is simply lacking. Recent social mobile games are often incorporating new elements like mini-games (Smurfs’ Village, the upcoming Monsterz’ Revenge), or trying to blend genres to create something new. TeamLava, on the other hand, seems insistent on keeping one foot firmly planted in last year’s model. Adding in the light farming element here was a good start, but it’s not enough.

With cute animals and low wait times, Zoo Story should be an instant hit in the collection of any Tap Zoo fanatic. It doesn’t try anything really new, and the TeamLava shopping experience is as lopsided as ever, but there’s enough charm in this package to make it well worth the install for social gamers with a love for the wild kingdom.