There is no denying that Facebook users enjoy raising forms of virtual pets. That concept was proven long ago, with the Japanese Tamigotchi pets – you know, the little beeper-like things that hung on a key chain or belt loop. It’s no surprise to see so many virtual pet caring games on Facebook. From aquariums to savannas, more variations of the same type of game spill forth. This time, however, Metrogames takes players to a new area — the jungle — in its most recent title, Jungle Life.
All in all, Jungle Life is a more terrestrial version of the virtual aquarium boom. Rather than fish swimming about a tank, you have a 2D plot of jungle landscape that you fill with a wanton variety of creatures. Evidentially, it’s not too hard to fill up your virtual space either as jungle critters apparently don’t cost too much.
Once your animals are in their new habitat they move about doing the basic animal stuff… namely wandering about and sleeping (nature’s not quite as exciting as television seems to portray sometimes). As the animals live out their digital lives, the player will be required to feed them after X amount of time; a time that increases depending on the size of the animal, with the larger ones taking longer.
At each feeding the animal will age a year and become worth more coin. This is the primary means of income, as with each year, they will continue to increase in value. Obviously, this means that they are worth the most at the maximum age, but should they not get feed regularly, they will not grow until they have a full stomach.
Honestly, it’s a typical core mechanic seen a dozen times before. One thing Jungle Life does do a little bit differently, however, (though even this has been used a number of times in some fashion or another as well) is the prospect of mating. At age one, should you have an animal of each gender, you can mate them once every 24 hours to get a free animal of that species. It’s a nice addition, and a nice way to make some profit once you have unlocked the larger, more expensive creatures.
Pretty much everything you do earns experience, including simply petting your animals once every so often. Unfortunately, as it stands, this is only limiting in regards to what you can buy in the store: Animals or otherwise.
Of course, this “otherwise” refers to jungle decorum. Everything within the store is tailored to a jungle theme. The goal of Jungle Life really doesn’t seem to be being original, but to merely tailor a popular genre to a different set of tastes. That in mind, Metrogames doesn’t do a bad job at all. The art style has a distinctive, cartoon look to it and the environment is spacious enough with enough variety in the current initial to appease a great number of player palettes.
Like the similar aquarium games, players are also able to expand beyond a single jungle. This is really the means that more advanced players will use to make more money, and to be honest, considering that most decorations cost 10 times more than the animals, it is going to be needed. Basically, each jungle is capped at 10-20 animals, so having multiple ones will allow you to better breed different species. Unfortunately, this is where players tend to run into a snag.
Unlike many of the aquarium ilk, where more tanks simply cost exponentially more in-game currency, Jungle Life requires both coin and neighbors. This is part of a larger trend we’ve seen in games lately, where you need to invite friends in order to make progress (though there is usually an option to use purchased virtual currency to buy expansion areas instead). The mechanic basically means that if the player can’t get their friends to play with them, they, themselves, are penalized by being unable to progress in the game (or at least become hindered) – even if they like it.
Getting back to Jungle Life specifically, it is an average game. If you’ve played one animal husbandry app or virtual aquarium title, you’ve essentially played Jungle Life. There’s nothing truly unique about the app, and while it’s well made, gameplay-wise, it just feels uninspired. That said, Metrogames, again, may not be looking to be innovative, but merely attract those that would prefer the games that have played before in a new environment. Thus far, that seems to be working too. Currently, the past two weeks have shown a steady incline of monthly active users for the app from virtually zero to north of 210,000 — although the company has room to spend on things like ads for the game, as it recently raised $5 million from Playdom. We’ll be watching to se just where this adaptation of an established genre caps out.