Quick Look – Safari Zone (#JustOnePercent 23/100)

Developer: Tiger Collins
Release Date: April 9, 2021
MSRP: $4.99

Let’s talk about genre tags for a minute. I think that, once upon a time, they were fairly useful, but back then, there were also far far fewer of them to sort through. Now, more often than not, genre tags (whether added by the developer or by players through Steam’s tag system) are confusing & misleading. For genres I particularly like, I can usually pick out things in the game’s description or screenshots that I may or may not feel really fit the tag, but for genres I only dabble in, I’m sometimes surprised by what I actually end up with.

Safari Zone is described by the developer as a “creature-collection adventure with roguelike elements” and I suppose all of those terms are – strictly speaking – correct. However, I tend to associate the label of “creature-collection” with games like Pokémon, where creatures are captured through a battle mechanic. Not so here – you don’t so much collect creatures as catalog them, and there is no combat mechanic of any type. What there is instead is a somewhat irritating button mashing mini-game that, honestly, adds nothing to the experience.

As for the roguelike elements, well, in this case it means you have a limited amount of actions before you need to start over from scratch. It’s presented as being how far you can explore, but really, anything you do can deplete your meter. You need to find new creatures for your index in order to fund your expedition needs, but the game feels like it punishes you for, well, for moving. You can try to catch stuff, or you can explore – if you try to do both in the same safari, it feels like it takes forever to make any progress.

It’s kind of unfortunate, because while it feels like there’s an amusing game underneath all the mess, Safari Zone cannot seem to stay out of its own way. In trying to make a mashup of buzzword genres, it manages to avoid just about everything that makes those genres enjoyable. What you’re left with is an exploration game that discourages exploring, without a lot of story to motivate you to keep restarting. Add to that the apparent bug that even if you save the game before exiting, when you return your items (including the ones that allow you to start further into the game) are all gone, and you’re back to the tutorial, and I just don’t see myself returning to this one.

Safari Zone has garnered almost no attention on Steam, but was part of the recent Bundle for Ukraine on itch.io, which is how I discovered it. SteamDB estimates that Safari Zone has sold less than 100 copies on Steam. Both people who have reviewed it recommend it though – I guess they liked this one more than I did. It is ranked 6263 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

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