Pet Shop Story for iPhone and iPad
TeamLava's Pet Shop Story is a cute business simulation game where you are in charge of creating and stocking a pet store full of decidedly adorable creatures and critters. Unfortunately, the game is crippled by its slow pace and a rather restrictive freemium business model.
Pet Shop Story follows the same set-up as many other freemium business simulation games. You start with an empty pet shop and some cash, with the goal of building up the business and completing other objectives along the way. Meeting goals and expanding the store earns you more money and experience points.
Two forms of currency are at play in Pet Shop Story—gems and coins. Coins are relatively easy to earn: As your pet shop gets bigger and better, your pets bring in more coins. You can also earn coins by taking on goals that range from completing collections to visiting neighbors. “Complete” families of pets (two parents and two babies) earn the most money.
Gems, on the other hand, are more difficult to come by. You start with 12, and while it’s possible to earn gems by adding two neighbors (inviting friends to play via email or Facebook), that only gets you five gems. To get more, you typically have to pay money via in-app purchases—and that’s one of my big complaints with the game. (Perusing the TeamLava forums, it also appears to be a departure from the developer’s other freemium games.)
You can’t complete many of the goals in Pet Shop Story without a healthy reserve of gems; similarly, many of the animals can only be added with gems. And the gems can get pretty pricey—a $5 in-app purchase gets you 24 gems. You can pay as much as $90 for a 580-gem boost. Again, it’s hard to progress very far without those gems. Breeding a baby animal can take several hours or even days until the baby is ready to be placed in the store. In the meantime, if you want to breed another baby animal, you have to unlock another bed at a cost of 149 gems—not an inconsequential amount.
At times, it seemed as if Pet Shop Story was actually punishing me for not spending money. For example, it sometimes took up to three days for one of my baby pets to be ready from the nursery. But when it was finally ready, I was greeted with a message that my pet was sick and I had to either use gems or simply abandon the pet and start over. I found that incredibly frustrating—and a bit inappropriate for a game that will likely appeal to young players to feature sick and abandoned animals.
The freemium model involves these kind of trade-offs, I realize, but Pet Shop Story’s setup seems overly demanding. Contrast this game’s approach with Tiny Tower, another free-to-play game where you can build up your in-game currency by spending real dollars. The difference is that Tiny Tower makes it much easier to earn virtual bucks without having to pony up the real thing—it’s possible to play that game without ever spending a dime, albeit at a slower pace than you would experience using in-app purchases. With Pet Shop Story, playing at your own pace simply isn’t an option.
Another complaint with Pet Shop Story: It’s far too easy to buy things by accident. I accidentally used most of my gems to buy more coins. Seeing how precious gems are in this game’s setup, Pet Shop Story should really include a prompt to warn you before you make an accidental purchase.
Pet Shop Story does get points for usability and appearance— the pets are wickedly adorable, the graphics bright and fun, and the controls intuitive for the most part. But, unfortunately, all the cute virtual puppies in the world just can't make up for a slow pace and exploitative business model.
[Karissa Bell is a Macworld editorial intern.]