New boardgames seem few and far between these days, as if every possibility of that aspect of family entertainment had been tried, tested and exhausted. But every so often someone still manages to find a way to rejuvenate the old cardboard and dice format, and it’s here where Zooloretto makes its mark.
The difference with Zooloretto over Monopoly is there’s no indication that this is a boardgame in digital clothes. Perhaps fans of the physical version will find it immediately recognisable, but there’s little sense that the game is attempting to mimic the tabletop game, which is quite a feat in itself.
The objective of Zooloretto is to organise yourself a working, popular and, most importantly, profitable zoo. Managing the animals is a surprisingly intricate task, since you’re up against three other zoo keepers all vying to get the same faces pressed up against their animal cages.
At the beginning of each round you draw an ‘attractions’ card, which, for the most part, will represent an animal. Other zoo necessities are thrown in there, too, such as vending stalls and coins to help your cause. Three trucks are available to move your new attractions about, so the first job is to place them in one of these transporters.
Once all the players have picked their cards and chosen which truck to put their item in, the next stage begins. These trucks, you see, visit all the zoos, and each player is given the option of bringing a specific truck into their compound and helping themselves to its stock.
So, although one of the trucks might be empty and another may have a mangy flamingo in the back, your best option is to choose the one with the male and female elephants and the hot dog stand, as an example.
These items are then placed in and around the zoo. Should you happen to acquire a male and a female, you find yourself with a crowd-pleasing baby inside one of your pens, winning even more visitor points. These visitor points are awarded at the end of each round and essentially equate to cash.
The vending stalls bring in guaranteed amounts of money depending on the number of animals in the enclosure next to them. Certain pens can become far more valuable when strategically placed and serve you better if you can fill the surrounding enclosures with fascinating creatures.
It can all get a bit much to keep track of, particularly while you’re learning the intricacies of play; however, much of the difficulty is relieved by the option to summon an overview of your zoo. Pulling the ‘roller blind’ down from the top of the screen gives you a detailed readout of your zoo’s statistics, which is a life-saving addition unique to this iPhone version.
Visually, Zooloretto doesn’t require a great deal of detail, but the developer has still managed to squeeze everything into the screen without clutter or confusion. Moving the various components about the place is surprisingly easy and accurate given their size.
Both for a boardgame conversion and for a simple turn-based multiplayer game, Zooloretto is quite demanding and involved, which is undeniably in its favour. It’s not, though, the quick and casual title it might first appear to be.
That doesn't prevent it from working beautifully as a portable game. Zooloretto offers interesting, engrossing communal play. Younger players might struggle to fathom the rather involved mechanics, so bear in mind that perseverance will be required to extract it's entertaining essence.