Reviewed: January 28, 2005
Released: January 17, 2005
Zoo Keeper is one of those games that is so simple it should have been built right into the DS, especially since it is one of the few games that actually requires the use of the touch screen. Sure, you can play this game with the D-pad and A button but you wonít get far.
Zoo Keeper is a puzzle game that follows in the footsteps of Bejeweled, a game that anyone with a cell phone has likely played, mixing bright colors and charming animal squares in what is probably the most addicting DS game currently available.
At the core of Zoo Keeper is a very simple concept; line up three matching animal tiles, either vertically or horizontally to make them vanish. New tiles will drop in from above to fill in the gap and you repeat the process until you run out of time or accomplish whatever goals have been set by the chosen game mode.
You manipulate the tiles directly with the stylus on the touch screen by touching any two adjoining tiles. You can either point at each title or do a tiny drag move toward the second tile to swap the two. If the resulting swap creates a series of three or more matching tiles they will vanish, rewarding you with points and bonus time.
Zoo Keeper offers several variations of this simple concept. Normal mode basically has you capturing a certain quota of each animal type to advance through the levels. Tokoton, my personal favorite, has you capturing as many animals as possible but the level only advances when you capture 100 of each animal type.
Time Attack is a timed game that is perfect for a quick pick-up-and-play game. It lasts for six minutes and you try to get the highest score possible in that time. Quest mode is definitely the hardest of all the modes and consists of 10 challenges ranging from capturing certain animals, avoiding others, capturing more than four at a time, linking captures, and other fiendish quests.
There is also a two-player versus mode that makes use of the wireless linking capabilities of the DS and only requires a single cartridge. You basically capture animals to reduce the other playerís timer and the first person to run out of time loses.
There are a few nice touches thrown in. You have binoculars that you can use when you are visually stumped and all the possible animal combinations will be highlighted. There is also a Lucky animal for each level that rewards you with double points. This lucky animal is shown as a small icon on the bottom screen and a large portrait on the top screen.
Zoo Keeper is much like Tetris in that you can never really win. You simply play until you lose and see how far you can get and how high a score you can post on the rankings screen.
There isnít a whole lot to look at here. The game is better than Tetris only because the squares have cute animals symbols on them. The lucky animal portraits are charming and will delight the younger gamers, but as you can see from the screenshots, there just isnít a lot to this game.
Zoo Keeper offers one, maybe two annoying songs that are simple electronic tunes. Iíd venture to say they arenít even MIDI quality, but more like ring tones on a cell phone. They will drive you and anyone around you insane before you get to level 5.
The only other sounds in the game are the simple electronic noises of two tiles swapping and vanishing. Just turn the volume all the way down on your DS and turn on the radio or hum your own ditty.
Since Zoo Keeper has no real end this is one of those games that you can play forever. Frankly, I found Zoo Keeper to be one of the most addicting games I have played in the past year. I now carry my DS around almost constantly looking for six-minute intervals where I can sneak in a timed game.
A word of warning Ė the built-in high score list is freakishly high. Iíve logged more than 30 hours and have yet to get more than the bottom four spots on the Top 10, at least on the Tokoton mode where it takes an extreme effort to break the 800,000 barrier. But Iíll kill myself trying.
Zoo Keeper is one of those games that is simple to pick-up and impossible to put down. It will delight gamers of all ages and the more you play the better you get. It promotes observation, color and pattern recognition skills, but the random nature of the game boards is more about reflexes than problem solving. You really canít plan more than two or three cascades down the line.
You can probably buy a similar version of this game for your cell phone for a fraction of the cost of this game and you can probably find something for free on your PC, but if you are looking for a totally engrossing puzzle game to occupy countless hours of your free time then take a trip to the zoo and rescue some animals on your DS.