A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Simplz: Zoo, a match-three puzzle game with zoo simulation elements, is a downloadable game for PC that hasn’t been rated by the ESRB. However, it is very family friendly. There is no sex, drugs, violence, or anything else that might offend; just simple match-three puzzles and zoo building action. It’s even faintly educational, thanks to occasional bits of animal trivia that pop up in speech balloons over the heads of the zoo’s guests.
What's it about?
A downloadable game for Windows PCs and Macs, SIMPLZ: ZOO puts players in the shoes of a young zoo director who inherits a facility with just one lonely exhibit. A letter from the previous owner explains that he hopes we will be able to achieve his goal of turning it into the world’s top wildlife menagerie. To do that, players have to engage in a match-three puzzle game that requires them to group tiles on a grid in sets of three or more. Matching food tiles results in food for the animals, matching helmet tiles keeps our zoo staffed, and matching resource tiles ensures we have the materials necessary to build new attractions. After each puzzle, we head back to the zoo and spend the money we’ve earned, research new exhibits, and watch as patrons slowly begin to fill the paths, walking from one cage to the next while talking about what they like or would like to see next.
Is it any good?
It’s a simple concept, but one that has been executed with care and precision. The zoo element is basic enough that middle-school kids should have no trouble designing their own menagerie, but also creative enough that parents will have fun designing, too. And while the puzzle element is deep -- there seems an almost limitless array of power-ups and mini-objectives -- all you really need do is keep matching, which isn’t too hard since there’s no time limit (unless you check a box that lets you impose one on yourself) and we never encounter game-ending stymies.
What’s more, the zoo and puzzle elements intertwine nicely. Put up an ape abode and suddenly the food tiles we match in the puzzle game turn from steaks to bananas, increasing their worth. And the conservation points earned in the puzzle game can be used to buy new animals. This symbiotic relationship keeps players interested moving from one part of the game to the next, and ensures that we stay interested throughout the surprisingly lengthy story, which lasts ten hours or more. It’s good family fun—and great value for your downloadable game dollars.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about zoos. Do you enjoy visiting them? Do you think that the animals are happy in their habitats? Do you think it would be fun to work in or oversee a zoo?
Families can also discuss the appeal of match-three games. Only a few, such as Bejeweled, have broad recognition, but there are literally thousands in existence. What do we like about them? Why do people of all ages, both genders, and pretty much all cultures find them so habit-forming?
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