On my journey through Android breeding apps, I came across Pet Shop Story, which was a bit different than things that I had played previously. Instead of breeding dragons or Simpsons characters, this time you get to breed cute and cuddly animals. This turned out to be my fourth game, it came because I was getting somewhat bored with the other games and wanted something different. This is also from TeamLava, the company that puts out Dragon Story (and a whole passel of other “Story” games) but it suffers from a lot of the same problems.
Well, that’s not quite true, it has even bigger issues than Dragon Story. Like Dragon Story, a lot of the game revolves around purchasing premium currency, “gems” in this version, for real life money, but unlike Dragon Story, where you can limp along without whipping out a credit card, it’s just not possible in Pet Shop Story. You cannot get friends to send you “gems”, you get a few here and there for completing quests, but otherwise, you’re screwed. And yes, I mean screwed because there are a lot of pets that you cannot get without paying for them, often through the nose. The worst part is, they don’t even tell you when you’re going to run face-first into a brick wall.
Take for instance one quest that wants you to breed a Siamese cat with an Abyssinian to get an Ocicat. The Siamese is really expensive to get with in-game money so it takes a while, they just don’t tell you that when you finally have one, the Ocicat costs you premium currency and it’s not cheap.
Then there’s the most complained about issue: to get a border collie, it costs you 149 gems. You have to spend money to buy those gems, then to buy a mate for the border collie, then to breed the collies twice. In order to get that one animal, it will cost you over $100. Then there’s a frog that costs $200. These aren’t just token charges, it’s highway robbery. It very quickly gets to the point where it is virtually impossible to complete quests or collections of animals To be honest, I gave up.
But there are many other issues here. Remember Dragon Story’s social system, where you added friends and visited their islands, playing with six clearly marked dragons to score social points? Pet Shop Story has a social system too, but it’s absurdly frustrating. Sure, you can go to a friend’s shop, but the pets that need to be played with are not marked at all, you have to tap on every single animal in the shop until you find the 5 social eggs you’re supposed to collect every day. In large shops, this is exasperating, you may have to tap on a hundred animal pens to find your 5 eggs. Of course, it’s really worse than that because just because you’re supposed to have 5 eggs per friend, that’s not necessarily true, there could be 1 egg or 2 eggs or, in an unfortunately high number of cases, no eggs at all. You may be out there, trying desperately to try to keep your social score up, only to go through shop after shop and coming up totally dry. It was the reason that I stopped caring about social, I don’t think I’ve visited anyone else’s shop in a month or more.
Now this is just an opinion, but you’re reading this review for my opinions, but whereas Dragon Story is very much about breeding various dragons together to get hybrids, that’s really not what Pet Shop Story is about. There’s very little actual crossbreeding that goes on, in fact, there are only 20-25 possible combinations out of hundreds of animals. This is really more of a “buy animals and breed them a couple of times” game. You buy an animal from the market. You buy a mate. You breed them together to produce two babies. Then you move on to something else. Whereas Dragon Story lets you breed almost anything with anything else, here, you’re extremely limited. The pens only hold 4 of the same kind of animal so there’s really no planning or inventory management, you just keep enlarging your shop to fit all the new enclosures you buy. That’s not nearly as fun. I also have a bit of an issue with all the different versions that come out, one for almost every major holiday, and that brings along a whole host of new animals, except they’re not really new, they’re gimmicky. For Father’s Day, for instance, they had three new animals, a Tie Cat (a cat wearing a tie), a Golfer Dog (a dog in a golf shirt) and a Tool Chest Dog (a dog with tools). I’d much rather see three new animals that we haven’t had in the game before instead of three dressed up animals very similar to what’s already there.
And that’s another problem, now that I’m thinking about it. You have to keep downloading and installing all the new versions of the game as they come out. Nobody tells you that you have to do this and there’s no way to get the game updated without downloading and installing a completely different version of the game and then uninstalling the old one. Since your shop is stored on TeamLava’s servers, you’re not going to lose anything, but if you don’t upgrade, you will never see any of the new stuff. I found this out the hard way when my wife, who had a newer version than I did because she started later, started pointing out all the things that she had that I didn’t. Nowhere does the game say “we have a new version, download now!” I just gave it a shot and it worked. That’s not very good planning, sorry.
Finally, my last complaint is the number of “gift items” available in the game. Going back to Dragon Story, there are two things you can send to a friend: gold and building permits. You use building permits to expand your island, you use gold, well, for premium content. Pet Shop Story, however, goes beyond that. First off, you can’t send gems at all, but we’ve gone into that. You can send building permits for expansions, that’s pretty basic, but you can also send various chachkies and trinkets to people, right now 87 of them! These things can be used to build habitats, but there’s a ton on the list that are expired, that are no longer useful and TeamLava hasn’t removed from the list. You can ask friends for something specific or they can just send you something they want to send, which means that your inventory very quickly becomes littered with junk you can’t use or don’t want. There’s no limit to the number of gifts you can have, but most are useless and the extraneous mess does limit the number of potentially useful items you might receive at random from your neighbors. There’s really no rhyme or reason for what items might contribute to a particular pen, sugar gliders, for instance, required plastic tubing and fireworks. Don’t ask me, I don’t understand either.
Pros: The animal models are cute and the sound effects are pretty good. Graphically, this game is fine, it’s just the gameplay where it all falls down.
Cons: In addition to the other problems I’ve already addressed, one more that stands out is the inability to rotate the animal enclosures. You can rotate decorations but not enclosures. I don’t see an excuse for that since you can rotate habitats in other TL games. This game also tends to be very high in the annoying “play our other game!” advertising. At least one or two of your quest slots is going to be taken up by advertisements for other TL games. It’s annoying.
Fun:The animal models are cute, the game tries to be fun, but once you realize that you’re essentially in a big Skinner box pressing buttons for no good reason and digging out your wallet, it really isn’t that much fun. As I said, I really stopped caring about the game, it’s permanently on the cusp of being deleted and if I wasn’t fundamentally opposed to giving up on things, it would be gone.
Frustration:This is a very frustrating game unless you are willing to pump a significant amount of real life money into it. You butt up against pay-walls constantly, there’s always something new to buy, some new trendy animal to spend a buck or twenty on.
Reliability:This game crashes a fair deal, especially when playing the social game. You’re going to be lucky if you can get through 8-10 friend’s shops before the game will shut down.
Wallet-Drainer:I’ve never seen a more absurd “freemium” game that punches you in the gut and says “gimme your money”. Freemium games are supposed to give you an enhanced game experience if you’re willing to pony up some cash, this game hardly gives you a gaming experience at all without a credit card and a high limit.
I’m sorry TeamLava, as much as I enjoy Dragon Story, you’ve totally missed the mark on Pet Shop Story. I cannot recommend it to anyone, which is a shame because it could have been a good game, if not for the horrible problems that you’ve saddled it with.