|Multiplayer:||Pass and play|
|AI:||Yes, three difficulty levels|
|Universal App:||Yes (there is a single app which works on both iPhone and iPad in HD)|
|Purchase for iPhone:||Use link below to purchase universal app|
|Purchase for iPad:||
GD Star RatingTower Zoo,
In his seminal work, The Far Side, Gary Larson hypothesised that in the future, the desirability of animals would be based not on their flavour or adorableness, but their stackability. Ladies, gentlemen and undecided, that day is here. Tower Zoo affords the storage-conscious, twenty-first century gamer the opportunity to competitively stack animals to his heart’s content. It seems that the dastardly zookeeper, possibly a relative of the late Dick Dastardly (Emeritus Professor of Cunning, Guile and Plots, Oxford), has captured some animals to keep in his zoo. The swine. You, the plucky animals, must best him in logic challenges by standing on each other’s heads.
Consisting of around 30 levels, Tower Zoo is a logic strategy game somewhat reminiscent of noughts and crosses if you’re English or tic-tac-toe if you’ve had the good fortune to be from anywhere else. Players take it in turns to place a cubic animal, then when there are three or more orthogonally adjacent pieces they are all vacuumed into the one last placed, which is then upgraded to a second tier of stackable animals. Tier two pieces can then be upgraded to tier three in a similar fashion. Play continues until there are no further available moves, the aim being to have a greater number of animals on the board by cramming as many of the buggers on top of each other as possible.
But when you vacuum the stacks together, its not just your pieces that you effect: any combination of your and your opponent’s animals can be included in your stacks. This is where the game extends beyond the connect-three concept – the ability to play aggressively. Connect-three games are obviously tedious as hell because it’s pretty much impossible to lose once you’ve got the procedure down. To rectify this, Tower Zoo’s stacking mechanic means that if your opponent has two similar level stacks within two squares of each other, you can lower their score by two by fusing them into your new stack. This brutally punishes poorly thought through moves and allows for some great clutch comebacks.
The strategic layer of the game is deepened by the addition of multipliers and score inverting tiles in the later, more complex levels. These give you battlegrounds to fight over and the ability to set traps for your rival. There’s a surprising fist-pumping satisfaction to be had when you realise that you can reduce your foe to negative scores.
In all honesty – I mean hand on heart honesty – when I picked it up I fully expected to hate Tower Zoo. I’m lousy at logic games. Like… imagine the expression on a dog’s face if you’d just explained the entire history of cutlery to him, his blissful ignorance would be exactly nothing like the mind-bending rage I get in when I play logic games. I don’t think in the right way to play them. Not at all. Give me a crossword and I’m happy as Larry and his younger, happier brothers; but logic games make for an unhappy Tom. Understandably then, I had some reservations about a game designed by a maths teacher, this was unlikely to be a game I would have anything nice to say about.
Then I played Tower Zoo for three hours straight.
You see, I’m no better at Tower Zoo than I am at Sudoku, Squares, Chess, Minesweeper, Happy Families, Myst or Professor ‘Bastard’ Layton. I’m still horrible at it, but it’s so simple to pick up and it captures what I imagine must be the essence of a good logic game – when you fail, you realise that it’s your own stupid fault. So the ONE MORE TURN mentality of my beloved 4x games is replicated by a MUST DEFEAT STUPID PUZZLE drive.
And it’s really cute. The stackable animals are only simply drawn and animated, but they cram an awful lot of personality into their pixels. My favourites have been the snow leopards because they remind me of Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli. Plus, you’re occasionally rewarded with a vignette which shows the horrible zookeeper being mean to the plucky animals. Bonus.
I’d be lying if I said I had any idea about what good or bad AI looks like for a logic game, but based on what I’ve seen Tower Zoo looks pretty great. There are three levels of difficulty for each level, but I’m not really sure why you’d play on anything but hard mode. That’s not some ME SO ALPHA brag by the way, it’s more that on either of the other modes you can visibly watch the AI deliberately making sub-optimal moves to give you a chance. Especially easy mode, which is like a doting parent with a small child. Yes, well done Anastasia, you placed a tiger! Very good! I’ll just avoid the obvious spot where I can place one piece and earn twelveteen points. Of course, Hard mode is punishing, so maybe playing against DEEP BLUE won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
I can whole heartedly recommend Tower Zoo’s cute, cuboid and stackable animals. The app comes with a free trial if you’re undecided, with the option to upgrade in-app for the low LOW price of not very much at all. There’s enough puzzles here to keep the me and the terminally illogical happily entertained, while providing puzzle-cracking, hardcore-logic-supercomputers like my girlfriend a decent challenge as well.