Animal Kingdom Explorers is a good HOG, and it combined educational element.
By Nadia Oxford From Gamezebo
Most hidden object games (HOGs) trot out hunt-the-item scenes that look as if a tornado hit an episode of Hoarders. Explanations for the mess are rarely offered, either; you're just supposed to assume that the dead/murdered person who owned the house (since that's almost always the premise) liked to collect junk. But Animal Kingdom Explorers for Facebook does something a bit different: it asks you to search through beautifully-drawn crowds of animals that are clustered on plains and around watering holes. It's a fun experience for animal lovers—and it's educational!
Animal Kingdom Explorers is a HOG by Playdom. If you've played Gardens of Time or Blackwood & Bell Mysteries, then you know how game works. You follow the story via hidden object scenes, and must find lists of items to find in a whole lot of clutter. Though Animal Kingdom Explorers still has its "Huh?" moments as far as its hidden object scenes are concerned ("Why is there an argyle sock stuck in a tree in a traditional African village?—Eh, we'll just say ‘poachers did it.'"), most of them are a joy to look through, provided you love animals. You'll explore elephant plains, the frozen arctic, rainy water holes, waterfalls populated by exotic birds, and more.
What's particularly commendable is the way Playdom managed to shoehorn education into Animal Kingdom Explorers. You probably know what a hornbill is thanks to The Lion King (hint: Zazu), but are you familiar with caecilians? How about red-tailed monkeys? How are you supposed to search for something if you don't have any idea if it's a bird, a beast, or a rock?
You educate yourself. Every animal on your "find me" list has a question mark beside its name. If you click on the question mark, you get a picture of the animal and a brief run-down of its habits. Of course, clicking on question marks slows down your progress (and like most HOGs, Animal Kingdom Explorers rewards you according to speed), but it's worth it. An education lasts a lifetime—right?
There is also the issue of microtransactions. "So what else is new?" you might ask, but Disney's Animal Kingdom Explorers is a little more aggressive than usual about asking you if you want to buy more of this, or more of that, or more energy, or speed up the construction on your lion habitat. A free-to-play game needs to solicit a little cash, sure, but Animal Kingdom Explorers was designed especially with kids in mind. Given the game's educational value, the constant prodding feels especially icky.
Taken as a whole, however, Animal Kingdom Explorers is a good HOG. It might feel too familiar for veterans of the genre, but animal-loving kids will find it more fun than a barrel of red-tailed monkeys.
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