Developer: Success | Publisher: Ignition Entertainment | Release Date: 2005 | Genre: Puzzle | Website: n/a | Purchase: Amazon
| Size: 64 Mb
If you really care about the storyline in your puzzle games then the plot of Zookeeper goes like this: The animals kept in the historic zoo on the outskirts of town have started a riot. They are protesting the arrogant behavior of the curator and you are the zookeeper that has been brought in to bring order to the chaos. As far as puzzle games go, it is pretty standard stuff albeit a bit pointless. What is more important is how well this game plays.
If you have played any “Match 3” game like Bejeweled before, then you have pretty much played them all and Zookeeper is no exception. It’s all about speed and a keen eye as you swap adjacent tiles in order to line up three or more of them. Matches can be made either vertically or horizontally, but not diagonally. Every now and then a special tile appears that will make a random group of animal tiles disappear when you use it, but that’s about it. What’s nice is that you can quickly swap tiles around even while other matches are clearing, which is the basis for big combo chains. Everything is of course done against a timer and if it runs out, your game is over. If you are unable to spot a match, a quick top of the binoculars will show you what you’ve been overlooking, but they are in limited supply and should be saved for real emergencies.
Zoo Keeper was originally a Gameboy Advance title and it really shows. The visuals are bright and colorful, but as simple as they come. The tiles are small and easier to identify by their color than by the blocky animal faces on them. The entire upper screen is devoted to a sparsely animated picture of a “lucky” animal. Making matches with the lucky animal tiles will net you more points. The bottom screen is the playing area where the tiles are shown and the touch screen works perfectly for the game style. Making matches is a breeze, as you can quickly tap adjacent tiles with the stylus. While games of this type have been done to death before, it has never been this intuitive to control, apart from on the PC when using a mouse.
Mode wise there’s the standard “Zoo Keeper” where you have to “capture” a certain amount of animals to complete each level. “Tokotan” mode is similar, but you level up for every 100 animals of each type you capture. Time attack gives you six minutes in which to do your best while the two player battle let you take on a friend in a best out of three match. Lastly, there is the “Quest” mode, which is probably going to be a bit too random for most people’s taste. You play through a total of ten levels and have to fulfill goals set by the curator. These can be anything from capturing a certain amount of one type of animal to making a set number of matches without any chains. At the end of each stage he’ll give you points, add points or halve (and sometimes even worse) whatever points you have so far. It can be a bit annoying to lose a chunk of your points towards the end for a small mistake, and I didn’t spend too much time with this mode.
I have yet to play a puzzle game that doesn’t have music so annoying that it can drive the people around you to acts of violence. Zookeeper is even more guilty of this, and my best advice is to turn the audio off as soon as you can. Everyone in the vicinity will thank you, trust me. Zookeeper is unsurprisingly rather addictive and if you are not already tired of the genre, it makes for a good addition to any DS library. It is obviously not something to whip out when you want to impress people with the power of your handheld, but when it comes to gameplay, it can hold its own. The perfect game for boring trips or long queues.
*Review originally published 2005.