Zoo Keeper Battle, as the name suggests, offers real-time multiplayer as you work to defeat your opponent's avatar by making matches in 30 second rounds. Each head-to-head battle sees both players starting with the same initial layout of animal tiles, and the same patterns of tiles will drop from the top of the screen. This leaves victory in the hands of the player that can most effectively manipulate the tiles they're given, hopefully creating combos that mean big bonus points in the process. Animals are divided between Attack or Defense, with each kind of animal giving you points in those respective categories. At the end of a round, these points are compared, and if one player has more attack points than the other player has defense points, an attack is made on their life bar. The rounds continue until one player is defeated entirely.
Zoo Keeper Battle allows you to challenge random strangers from around the world, and we only had the slightest of issues with the server, where a force-close of the app was required to make it once again connect. If you'd rather take on more familiar opponents, you can battle against friends as well, but there's something decidedly more exciting and even stressful about taking on a completely unfamiliar opponent, the skill level of which is unknown.
GameCenter achievements and leaderboards allow you to track your progress against friends, and the game itself offers a ranking for each player that increases as you perform well. Unfortunately, an energy system does limit the number of games you can play in a single sitting, but you can purchase additional energy from the store as a way to monetize the experience. Throughout it all, the series' famous bright and wacky graphics are a treat for the eyes, and the music is so catchy that I've often found myself humming it after I've left the game.
All told, Zoo Keeper Battle is an incredibly fun game, made all the more so by the fact that it's ultimately free to play. The game never feels "unfair," as each player is given the same animal tiles to work with, and a light "unlockables" system gives you something to keep shooting for, as you can customize your avatar with items you've unlocked as you progress. If you're even casually interested in the match-three genre on iPhone or iPad, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.
Click here to download Zoo Keeper Battle on iTunes --->
Have you tried Zoo Keeper Battle on iPhone or iPad? How do you think this mobile version of the game holds up to the rest of the installments in the series? Sound off in the comments!