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Review: Zooloretto

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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From gallery of thequietpunk
The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad(2x), iPhone, and iPod Touch, iOS 4.0 and higher.
Current Price: $4.99
Developer/Publisher: Spin Bottle Games/Chillingo
Version: 1.20
Size: 15.9 MB
Multiplayer: Pass and Play. Up to 5 players.
AI: Yes. No difficulty settings.
Itunes link: itunes.apple.com/us/app/zooloretto/id312840471?mt=8

The Good:
A faithful reproduction of the board game.
A solid single player experience.
The Bad:
Multiple rule breaking bugs.
Gameplay can become stale after a few plays.

Summary:
The iOS version of Zooloretto offers a satisfactory recreation of the board game, and though it lacks serious multiplayer, it can provide a fun solo diversion. However, rule bending bugs and a non-existent updates make this one title to be cautious of.

Gameplay:
Zooloretto was the Spiel des Jahres winner in 2007. If you are a fan of European board games chances are you have played and passed judgement on this game. If you are new to this genre, Zooloretto is a great family game that shares elements of Rummy and Go Fish. Its push your luck mechanic creates a tension that really drives the game.
From gallery of thequietpunk

In Zooloretto, each player is the owner of a zoo. During the course of the game players are trying to fill each of the three(or four) enclosures in their zoo. Each enclosure can only hold one type of animal. Each turn players draw a tile from the pile and put it on one of the trucks (each holds 3 tiles). These tiles can be animals, stalls (ice cream, souvenirs, etc) and coins. Instead of taking a tile, a player use their coins to expand their zoo among other things, or take one of the trucks (ending their play for the round). The game progresses until there are less than 15 tiles left in the pile. At this point players get points based on how full their enclosures are and how many animals they have that are not in enclosures.

The iOS version of Zooloretto is true to its roots. It provides a quality recreation of this great family game.

Implementation:
Zooloretto offers a clear and straight forward user interface. If you are new to Zooloretto there is a tutorial (automatically turned on when you install the app, though you can shut it off in the options menu) which can quickly explain how to use the interface and play the game. It usually functions correctly, but there have been moments when I have dropped a tile on the wrong truck because of an error in the interface. It includes a couple options that you would not have in the board game version, like being able to see how many points each player has at given time. It also displays how many tiles are left to be drawn, letting you gage how many rounds remain. One annoyance is that there is no way to skip through AI turns. You are forced to watch the animations for each player’s turn causing a game to take between 20 to 30 minutes (close to the playing time of the board game).

A unique part of the Zooloretto app is the shop. It allows you to use points you have collected by playing to buy additions to the game. They include a 4th and 5th player and “the polar bear” option which adds a new rule to the game. Though there are only a few rewards to earn, the shop gives you motivation to play your first few games.
From gallery of thequietpunk

Graphically, Zooloretto takes a safe approach. It combines traditional elements from the board game with cartoony graphical representations and animations. For example, players still draw and drag tiles from a stack onto one of the trucks, but when place in enclosures the animals become animated sprites. These childish elements are found throughout the app, even the start up screen features a cartoony zoo keeper and a random encyclopedia blurb about one of the animals featured in the game. Though the childish representation does make it feel like you are playing a “kids” game, it is fitting for the theme of the board game.

The AI in the game is easily bested. I have to admit that a adding more players increases the difficulty, but my win percentage is still over 80%. For an app that seems to be intended to be played solo, the lack of challenging AI is inexcusable. And that leads to one of my greatest complaints about Zooloretto: it lacks longevity. This game is much less variable than most euro games, and it need expansions to add the flavor and depth. Yet, the app has received little to no support by its developers, and the functionality that is there eventually becomes stale as you triumph almost every game.

A little TLC could really make an ok app great. Two bugs have been submitted by players over and over, yet there has been no remedy. One is that a computer player will sometimes play an animal of a different type to fill their enclosure. Another is that tiles may be placed on a truck that is no longer there (only human players can do this) allowing tiles to be dumped (they later appear in the next round). They, in my opinion, do not break the game nd can be overlooked. The AI is so weak, that if this bug does allow them to win, it is a rare occasion, and as for placing tiles on trucks that are not there, that should not happen unless you as a human player decide to cheat. What cannot be overlooked is the apparent disregard of the developers for their app. I guess a big publisher like Chillingo has bigger fish to fry and cannot be bothered to fix two bugs that have been brought to their attention over and over. Honestly, one of the benefits of working with apps is that they can be updated so easily, the producer can be in direct contact with their consumer. They can use feedback to quickly improve their product...but I digress (Perhaps we will explore this in a later rant...urr I mean post).
From gallery of thequietpunk

Conclusion:
Don’t get me wrong, the Zooloretto app is a very faithful and quality recreation of the board game. It offers a single player experience of Zooloretto on the go. However, it lacks the love and care that has been put into so many other great iOS board games. Zooloretto is a popular game and Chillingo is a large publisher, and, in this reviewers opinion, where much is given much is required. Therefore, despite its pedigree, Zooloretto falls short of what is expected of it.

Rating: 1/4 Needs Improvement
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Wed Feb 23, 2011 2:00 pm
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Review: Battle of Gundabad

Brad Cummings
United States
Connecticut
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From gallery of thequietpunk
The Stats:
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, iOS 3.0 and higher.
Current Price: $1.99
Developer/Publisher: Sheeta Creative Limited
Version: 1.0
Size: 11 MB
Multiplayer: None as of this version.
AI: Yes, no difficulty settings but generally pretty challenging.
Itunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/battle-of-gundabad/id41647873...


The Good:
First deck building experience on apple devices.
Challenging campaign mode.
Clear and simple interface
The Bad:
Lacks many basic features and options.
The art style will not fit all tastes.

Summary:
Battle of Gundabad is a well done deck building game, creating a portable experience that mirrors one of the highest rated games in the board game community.

Gameplay:
Battle of Gundabad is, as it claims, a deck building game. In fact, aside from a few cosmetic differences, it feels like Dominion. This is not meant as a negative remark, but to show that any player of Dominion or similar deck building games will feel right at home with this app.

From gallery of thequietpunk

In each game of Battle of Gundabad, four players begins with a small deck of cards. With these they can purchase any action cards (10 of 20 are randomly selected to form the supply of each game), more power cards (the money of the game), or victory point cards (the player with the most victory points at the end of the game wins). The game ends when three card piles are exhausted or the Castle victory point cards are gone.
Unique to Battle of Gundabad is a campaign mode. There are 14 levels with their own victory conditions, for example trying to purchase 25 action cards before the game ends. Many times your starting deck will be altered and your computer opponents will have advantages over you. Each of these levels has been challenging, and it has taken me many attempts to complete them successfully. This campaign mode gives Battle of Gundabad a unique spin and adds longevity to the play experience.

Implementation:
Battle of Gundabad brings the deck building genre to the iOS in an overall positive fashion. The interface is simple and easy to understand after viewing the brief tutorial, and it offers a great experience, the first of its kind.

From gallery of thequietpunk
A clear interface is key to the success of a board game app and Battle of Gundabad does not disappoint. The opening menu is simple and easy to navigate. The included tutorial will quickly show you what all the functions on the main game screen are and how they work. Basically, all ten supply cards are displayed in two rows of five, with the power and victory cards in a row below them. Below the supply cards, your hand is displayed. By double tapping on a card it will zoom in so you can read the text of that card. From the zoomed out view on my iPhone it is near impossible to read what each card does or the card name, however, after a few plays you will begin to recognize the art of the cards and be able to make purchases without needing to zoom each time. To play cards or buy cards you simply drag from your hand up or from the supply down to your hand. It is very clean and very simple. I have yet to make an accidental move, something that sometimes happens with less polished interfaces.

For a first build of the game, it does offer some options. You are able to control the speed of the AI players animations, which makes games go much faster. You can also mute or use sound (the background music is nothing to write home about). You can change your player name as well as the names of the four AI players. However, Battle of Gundabad still lacks many features. The lack of online multiplayer is common in many board game apps, but it seems like a pass and play feature could have been implemented easily. The AI players are challenging, I have won only one out of several games, however, there is no way to play anything other than a four-player game or edit the AI difficulty. As players of Dominion will know, the number of players changes the gameplay significantly. Another minor annoyance is that it also lacks multitasking support.

From gallery of thequietpunk
Graphically Battle of Gundabad is satisfactory. As I mentioned before, everything is generally clear and well laid out, though it does lack sharpness on my iPhone 4. It is difficult to identify some button functions but referring to the tutorial and play experience will help solve this. The art of the cards is completely original and seems to be done by the same artist. I find the art a little juvenile and not really per my taste. However, if you like a fantasy theme it should appeal to you.

Conclusion:
Battle for Gundabad is an excellent effort by Sheeta Games to bring the deck building genre to iOS. It lacks much of the polish and style of many board game apps from major publishers, but it offers solid gameplay despite the packaging. The bottom line is that if you are looking for a deck building experience on the go, Battle of Gundabad is for you.

Rating: 3/4 Good

Note:
Battle for Gundabad has no official association with Dominion or Rio Grande Games. Any relation implied by this reviewer was for the purpose of putting this Battle of Gundabad in context with similar games available on the market.
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Wed Feb 16, 2011 3:00 pm
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