"The enhanced art style and beautiful graphics are another example of how Zynga is continuing to bring innovation to games on social networks," Lurie says. "PetVille embodies some of the best features from other successful Zynga games, and puts them into a dynamic and fun pet environment. Create a pet avatar, care for it, visit friends and earn coins so you can decorate. Let's see what you can create in your house!"
PetVille works like most other pet simulators on Facebook, rival game Pet Society as a prime example. As Lurie mentions above, start the game by custom creating a pet, then customizing its pad. Once that's done, it's time to get to work earning virtual coins to buy new items and level up your character. Collecting coins requires visiting your pet's pad regularly to make sure the food bowl is full and any withered flowers have been replaced. You're also encouraged to visit all of your PetVile friends -- each visit uses up a bit of energy that is replenished daily -- where you can rake in coins by interacting with other pets and then helping them clean up their houses. As you do more, you're character will also level up, giving it access to new items in the stores, more types of food and more rooms in their houses.
Probably the most remarkable part of PetVille is the game's overall polish; it looks so good it's almost hard to believe it's a Facebook game that you can play for free. The environments are colorful and fun, and the pets are extremely animated, turning cartwheels unexpectedly and moving in close and knocking on your screen to get your attention if you go idle. The customization options for both the pets and the homes are rather robust, so you can really spend a decent amount of time making everything just the way you like. We also like that you can go in and alter your pets appearance as much as you like; it's a small touch, but something that makes the game that much more enjoyable.
Shopping is the main activity in the game right now, and there are separate stores for clothes, furniture, hardware (walls, doors) and pet customization. The stores are brimming with options; the clothing store alone had three sections: one for sportswear, costumes and haute couture for pets. The furniture and hardware store will let you create a multitude of styles for your pet's house -- from a stark mid-century modern living room to a pink girly girl bedroom with a gigantic walk-in closet. Many of the items will be available to buy right away and others are locked until you reach a certain level.
Like other social games, players will have the option to buy additional coins in PetVille using credit cards or PayPal. You can buy 3K to 80K coins by spending $5 to $50 on real-life cash. Unlike Zynga's other games, we were surprised to see that PetVille does not yet include a way to get virtual coins for free, by, for instance, signing up for Netflix or filling out a survey online. The company got in a lot of hot water for a few of the free coins offers they had in FarmVille and FishVille in recent weeks, so maybe they're holding off on adding those for now.
The biggest hole in PetVille right now is that after all of the visiting, shopping and customization is done, there's not much left to do. You can feed your pet treats, and they'll celebrate by playing guitar, juggling or shrinking -- but there's no real way to play with your pet in a more traditional sense. In Pet Society, owners can play catch with their pets, see how many times they can jump rope, etc., and we'd like to see more of this in PetVille as well.
Of course, the big question remains: will PetVille take over FarmVille as the king of all Facebook games? FarmVille now has about 68 million active players, setting a high bar for all other social games. Cafe World and FishVille have also risen in the ranks, but haven't come close to replicating the farm simulation's game popularity. Time will tell, but based on our first impressions we're certain that millions of addicted social gamers will have a hard time resisting the call of these adorable pets.
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