The match-3 puzzle game genre is well and truly saturated. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different match-3 games available on Android. There are plenty of match-3 RPGs like Cartoon Network Match Land, IAP driven games that offer tons of levels, and even a few premium puzzlers like REACH Classic. Finger Punch’s Zoo Zoo Arena looks to offer gamers a different sort of match-3 experience.
Zoo Zoo Arena is a head to head match-3 games where players take turns matching tiles on a shared game board for a set number of turns. The catch is that there is no score to worry about, players are only concerned with expanding their territory.
Each player starts out with a small plot of tiles in their color, with their opponent starting with an equal plot of tiles in the opposite corner of the board. Each turn players can expand their plot by matching tiles that are outside of, but connected to, their land. The player with the most land at the end of the match wins.
There are some more features for players to consider as they try to expand their territory. Completing four tile matches and certain blocks will give players an extra turn and create special tile pieces that can be used to easily take over an entire column or row. Players will often be faced with the option of completing a four tile match in their enemy’s territory and thus gaining no tiles but not losing a turn and taking an opportunity away from their opponent. At the same time such matches can add a valuable special piece to your opponent’s territory. Decisions like this have to be made in seconds as each player has a limited amount of time to make their move.
The new puzzle game offers a surprising amount of strategy and a novel concept that is a pleasant twist on the familiar match-3 formula. Though the territory battle concept is not entirely unique, but is incredibly rare in a sea of match-3 games that tend to feel very similar.
On top of the novel mechanics there are power-ups, loot boxes, and less than perfect translations that can hamper the experience. Overlooking the game’s downsides, the new puzzle game deserves a lot of credit for doing something different in a genre populated with underwhelming clones.
If you’re searching for a different match-3 experience, Zoo Zoo Arena is definitely worth a look. While the game’s creators have chosen to focus on its cute animal characters in the game’s marketing, the underlying territory battle mechanics represent a great new way of playing match-3 puzzle games.
At this time the game is only available in North and South America, though gamers can always change their Google Play country using a VPN.
Zoo Zoo Arena is free to play and contains ads and in app purchases. The new match-3 game is available on Google Play. Here is the debut trailer: