NINTENDO DS REVIEW: ZOO KEEPER
Not the most original puzzle game ever created but Zoo Keeper knows how to corral players and turn them into wild animals.

Zoo Keeper should not be confused with Zoo Tycoon. This is a puzzle game in the style of games such as Column Crowns, Egg Mania, Gem Smasher and Mighty Beanz. But it has the most in common with Bejeweled. Instead of jewels, you move animals around to make groups of three or more of the same species. It's a fun, easy and addicting game. And it looks great on the DS system.

As the Zoo Keeper it's your duty to keep animals in line - literally. To capture a particular animal you must line up three similar animal heads so that they form a line. The playfield is a grid that consists of eight animal icons horizontally and vertically. Lines can be made in both directions but you can only make a move with a tile that is adjacent to the tile being swapped, and even then you can only make that move if it will complete a line of three or more of the same icons. Lines or four and five are possible and you'll get a better score if you manage to perform these chain reactions. Each time you "capture" an animal, all the tiles used in that chain will be removed from the board. When moves are restricted because there are no more chains to be made, the game is over and a new tile set will appear.

Each game is time limited although you will get extra time for capturing animals. If you get stuck, you can use the binoculars which will give you a hint as to where to make the next move. The use of the binoculars is limited so you can't rely on them to play the game for you.

Unlike many games in this genre, Zoo Keeper manages to keep a relaxed pace without ever getting too easy or repetitious. We all have played games that seemed to be fine for the first hour only to hit a steep incline in the learning curve that seems more like a brick wall. After a few more tries you just end up putting the game away out of frustration. Zoo Keeper does get more complex but it does so gradually and evenly. You can play this game for hours and hours and still not want to throw it across the living room.

With different modes you can increase the intensity. The two-player mode can be played with the wireless adapter. Both players are in a race against time and each other. As an added bonus, you're able to steal time away from your opponent. The first one to run out of time is the looser.

Zoo Keeper utilizes the touch-sensitive screen. The dual screens are more of a luxury than a necessity. The playfield is where all the action is. The other screen just indicates the title and shows us which animal is featured. It's a very colorful game. The animals have an intentionally cubist appearance which is very hip. The tunes are light and catchy and even if I were a composer, I wouldn't change a darn note.

Zoo Keeper isn't cheap in price but nor is it cheap in presentation. You can get games like this for free on the net but you'll have to play them on your PC. However, if you're looking for a great, portable, two-player puzzle game then Zoo Keeper may be your best bet.

Review By Kelly
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
3.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
2.0
VALUE
3.0

Zoo Keeper goes by many names. Zooo is one of them which was available on the GBA awhile ago. There is also a cellphone version of this game and a Flash version floating around the net. So why would you pay $40 for a game that you can get free? Maybe because you're not a wise investor of your money or it could be because you love the game so much you're excited about playing it with the touch screen and stylus. If the latter is true then you will probably enjoy the enhancements the DS control brings to the game. If you don't care about such things then just download the Flash version.

Although it sounds like it, this game isn't a real time strategy or sim like Zoo Tycoon. Zoo Keeper is a puzzle game much in the same vein as Bejeweled. Here is a quick synopsis of history: Tetris begat Klax, which begat Columns, which begat Bejewled which eventually begat Zoo Keeper.

The basic concept is to line up animal heads and "trap" them. The animal you are supposed to capture is at the top of the screen. Line up 3 identical animal heads and they'll disappear, but you must avoid capturing other animals at the same time which becomes harder to do as the clock ticks on.

If addiction is a concern I can tell you that I wasn't expecting Zoo Keeper to keep me enthralled as long as it did. As with any puzzle game at least I find, that I'm totally kookoo about it for the first week that I get it and then it eventually wears off. The same fate was in store for Zoo Keeper, but it was certainly fun while it lasted. It's great for the trolley, which I take to work and it's very easy on the eyes as there isn't a lot of movement. Perfect for those who don't want to get motion sickness in a moving vehicle while playing.

The Nintendo DS version uses the stylus and touch screen to great affect and even manages to add an entirely new combo system to the mechanics of the game. The Quest Mode was much harder than in previous versions and almost seems to rely more heavily on luck than on your skills. I found the GBA versions Quest Mode far superior for this very reason. There are 5 different game modes to choose from and a 2 player wireless mode which only requires one copy of the game.

Ignition is counting on the barren DS release landscape of recent days and weeks to entice people to drop $40 for a game they can get free on the PC. Granted the stylus input does change the games mechanics for the better in my opinion but I'm not sure all of you would be convinced. If it was half the price I'd say go for it. As it is, buy it only if you're really bored of all of the other DS titles in your collection. It's one you will play off and on through the DS' lifecycle.

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System: DS
Dev: Ignition
Pub: Ignition
Release: Jan 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review By Shelby
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
3.5
GRAPHICS
3.5
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
3.0
VALUE
5.0