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Published December 13, 2012

Freemium [free-mee-uh m] noun. A sales strategy, especially on the Internet, in which the basic product or service is free, but customers are charged for additional features and content. That’s the dictionary definition for an ever prevalent format in current gaming. Zooniverse is latest offering of the genre, brought to us by the mobile giant Chillingo.

The concept of freemium has been around for a few years now. You get the main software for free and if you want the best features, or to speed things up a bit, you can pay a sum of money and get what you want. The issues are always the same. It is possible to spend £70 in app to unlock a tonne of in game currency, but the key point is you don’t have to. Or do you?


The premise of Zooniverse is simple. Create a zoo, fill it with animals and attract visitors. Animals generate XP (used to level up and gain access to more habitats, animals and shops) and shops give you cash (which you use to buy said items). So far so simple. Then you factor in the many hybrid versions of the cutesy animals and the need to ‘assign’ guests to shops to begin generating money and what you get is a rather confusing mess of on screen happenings. The hybrids themselves aid the monotony of placing ‘normal’ animals everywhere, even if some are downright ridiculous (here’s looking at you ‘Nue’, a mixture of a Siberian Tiger, Boa Constrictor and Japanese Macaque).

Graphically, there is very little wrong with Zooniverse. It’s all very colourful and aesthetically pleasing. The animals themselves are well drawn, with a slight pang of anime to them and there has been obvious effort to make the hybrid animals look at least a little bit feasible. I would have preferred a little more on-screen real estate to make it less cramped and the edges get a bit fuzzy if you zoom in or out.
The trouble with Zooniverse is it does absolutely nothing new. It makes a slight attempt at doing something interesting with the hybrids feature, but in the end it’s just a way to make you wait for something else and hopefully buy some coins. I think my biggest gripe with Zooniverse is some of the missions cannot be completed unless you spend money on the game (it is theoretically possible to earn access for free, but the given time needed is unfathomable) and that really is committing the #1 sin of freemium. For me, freemium games should be completely free and if I enjoy it, I should feel like want to give the devs some money and not that I have to.

All that said, the game is free. So try it out, your kids will probably love it (if you’re one of these insane people who let infants go wild on an iPad) but for [enter relevant deity here]’s sake PLEASE don’t tell them your apple password so they can’t spend the aforementioned £70 on in-game rubbish. You have to help yourselves folks.
Score 6Gameplay
+ Fairly familiar to Freemium veterans
– Overly complicated for the target audience
-Too many paid for elements

+ Cute art style
– Cramped
– Zoom in/out at your peril

+Fits the theme well
-Repetitive enough to get in your head canada goose damen canada goose damen