Zoo Keeper is a wacky puzzle game developed by Success, it was first released on the GBA in 2003, due it its success a PS2 game was made in 2004. However in 2005 the original game was ported to the Nintendo DS. Zoo Keeper is a shameless clone of Popcap Games Bejeweled, except it exchanges Gems for retarded looking animals, throws some new modes into the mix, and adds a level of quirkiness to the game. Hit the jump to find out more.
Despite it being a puzzle game, there’s a thin story element to it, you play as a Zoo Keeper, and you must keep the animals in line by arranging them in rows of three or more. How original. You have an 8×8 board filled with 1×1 animal heads, the movement of these heads is restricted to swapping adjacent squares, but only if they’ll form a row of three. Once you line three or more up, those tiles are removed the ones above fall down, and new tiles appear to replace the top ones that fell. That is pretty much the basic gameplay, and each of the modes expands on that, forcing you to adapt your play style. Although you can use the D-Pad to swap the animals, the stylus controls are too perfect to pass up.
In the main game mode, you are hindered only by a time, which slowly decreases whilst you play. You can refill the time bar by making moves, if you cant see any matches, just press a little button with the binoculars, this shows you all the available matches on the screen at any one time. If the time bar gets too low all the animals on the screen start to shake, this is a sure fire way to induce a panic attack. If it wasn’t hard enough to see a match before, the shaking just makes your eyes confused and impossible to see any matches. It makes you freak out and lose the game, what a nasty trick.
One of the things that sets Zoo Keeper apart from Bejeweled is the ability to make another move whilst one is still in progress, allowing you to create huge chains, or “fake chains” by making rows of three in very quick succession. The second aspect that sets it apart is that in Bejeweled you get a Game Over when there are no remaining moves left on the board, Zoo Keeper actually praises you for having no possible moves, and gives you a score boost. How nice!
There is a little meter on the bottom of the top screen with numbers and animal heads. This keeps track of exactly how many animals you’ve “captured” in the current game. It also showcases the “lucky animal”, if you capture the lucky animal you get double points, also the animal has a spasm of some sort making it look ridiculous, it’s quite hard to stop looking at the top screen when you’re supposed to matching animals on the bottom.
The game modes in Zoo Keeper are engaging, you have; Zoo Keeper, Tokoton, Quest, Time Attack and Multiplayer.
- Zoo Keeper mode sets you a quota of animals to catch in order to advance a level. This quota starts at three animals. There are 20 levels. After beating all the levels, a story about the curator and the zoo keeper (you) is revealed.
- Totokon is similar to Zoo Keeper mode, but the quota is 100 animals for each level. You are not required to catch 100 of every animal, but instead 100 of just one type. When 100 lions, for example, are captured, the screen clears and you level up. The counter for lions is reset to zero, but the counters for all other animals remain as they are. This allows you to gain levels in quick succession.
- Quest mode asks you to fulfil certain requirements, such as getting a number of chains, or capturing a quota of one type of animal, while leaving the others untouched. There are 10 stages in quest mode.
- Time Attack is the same as the main game, but you need to amass the highest score you can within 6 minutes, scores over 4 million are possible in this mode, but it’s not easy.
- Multiplayer, which works with the DS’s single-cart functionality, lets you play against a friend. When clear animals, you remove time from your opponent’s clock, and the match ends when one player runs out of time.
Graphically Zoo Keeper is a game made for one screen, but adapted for two. The cute tiles and vibrant colours give it a amusing feel, and you’ll soon fall in love with the blocky art style. The quirky music and sound effects contribute to the happy atmosphere that the game relentlessly secretes.
Zoo Keeper is definitely one of the better puzzle games out there for the DS, it’s simple to pick up and play for anyone, and it’s uncomfortably addictive. You’ll soon realise you’ve played for what seemed like 5 minutes, but was in fact an hour and a half. Although Zoo Keeper is a clone of a game you can play for free, it makes it a difficult choice to buy, but the advantage of playing it on the go, on trains or buses, makes it a clear choice. It’s a strong puzzler, great fun, and I’d fully recommend it.
Cutesy graphics and a unique art style
Perfect on the DS, touch screen paradise
Quirky music and sound effects
You’ll keep playing for the high score, it’s got the replay value of Tetris
A fantastic puzzle game, it’s fun guaranteed.