Meromero Park Makes Facebook Pet-Caring Feel New Again

By now, most everyone on Facebook is probably familiar, in some way, shape, or form, with Playfish’s Pet Society. As with any successful game (regardless of platform) it sees a lot of clones. In fact, the concept of virtual pet caring has been around since before Facebook.

But we’ve just looked at Meromero Park from Tokyo-based online marketing firm MicroAd — and it manages to be unique, and good.

At first glance, it looks like just another Pet Society. However, upon closer inspection, only the core aspect of the game is the same. Players are given a very simple, and dull-looking creature called a “Mero.” Don’t worry though, it won’t stay dull for long, as the whole point of the game is to care for your Mero as it grows, while decorating its 2D home and adding clothing.

This is where the similarities to predecessors cease. There is no grooming or bathing. There is just feeding. Similar to how Zynga’s PetVille does it, players buy a piece of food that will last for X amount of time, and place it in a bowl. Periodically, your Mero feeds from it and once it’s finished you’ll get a gem that grants you not experience and gold but “Smiles” and “Pearls.”

Regular feeding is among a handful of things that earns players experience, ahem, smiles, towards new levels. As you’d expect, this is what gates a player from buying the best items right off the bat (well, that and the price tag). Interestingly enough, it is done in a much more creative and gratifying way.

You see, the gating is applied to the Mero’s clothing, but rather than just saying “Requires Level 8,” each level represents an amount physical growth for your pet. At the start, they are boring, dull, blobs of basic color, but with every level, they get bigger, get more color, grow new limbs (i.e. actual arms), and by extension, can wear new clothing. As a basic example, there are items that you can decorate their back with, such as tails, but while you can buy the item, you can’t actually don it until, well, they are more than just a walking head.

Furniture, on the other hand, has no limit. You can buy it at any time, so long as you have enough pearls. Most of it is very bright with extremely vibrant, pastel colors, so most people will probably either completely love it or hate it. Of course, there is a little bit of in-between with some nice Japanese decorum such as teahouse benches, ume lamps, and kanji scrolls.

Sadly, the amount of space one has to work with, decoration-wise, is a bit limited with only one, single-frame room. Thankfully, players are able to maximize the use of this space with the ability to put any item anywhere. Want a lamp to hang down all the way to the floor? Not a problem. Want to put a vase floating in the middle of no where? You can do that too.

In addition to the stores, players can also visit each other’s friends as often as they like. Just remember to say “Meroci” (hello) when you walk in. Beyond just seeing their home and playing with their stuff (yes, you can click on most furniture – and the Mero, for that matter – and it will do something), you can help them by squashing little cockroach-like critters that scurry about. Of course, if none of your friends want to play with you, it’s possible to make new ones by visiting the Onsen, which is basically a community, chat-supported, bath with other random players.

If you’re not looking for friends, and are more the entrepreneurial type, then you also have an option. Meromero Park comes with two mini-games which can earn you extra pearls. The first is a memory game with increasingly difficult stages in which you open pea-pod-like objects and attempt to match one colored critter with one of the same color. However, this game only grants you five lives per stage, so if you guess wrong and don’t make a match too many times, the game is over. The second is a sort of shooter game, where you say “meroci!” to everyone that passes by within X amount of time to score points.

As far as negatives go, there really aren’t a lot. The only significant issue with Meromero Park is that it really pushes hard on the virtual currency (Kiralin) sales. This isn’t a push in the sense of spamming the user to buy some, but in the fact that a tremendous amount of the items within the clothing and furniture stores – which is at least half – are only available if you spend real money, and not earnable with the in-game pearls

Nevertheless, Meromero Park is still a very nice title. It has taken the core pet-caring concept and morphed it into something that feels new. That said, there is a stark cultural difference in the design, but even if you don’t care for it that much, the game is amusing enough, in its own right, to make most people smile. Now, if you don’t mind, the Mero is hungry again….