Zoo Hospital Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Zoo Hospital Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

But I Wanted To Be A Brain Surgeon!

Caring for the health of animals is a noble pursuit, and it’s certainly one which should translate quite readily to a game format aimed at the all-ages crowd.

Zoo Hospital screenshot

With several hospital drama titles either already out or shortly on the way, Majesco’s Zoo Hospital on DS features an interesting change of pace by focusing on mending bones, splicing wounds, and diagnosing the ailments of our loveable animal counterparts. It’s just too bad the game feels like something is seriously missing in certain respects, especially since some solid effort was clearly put into the aspects that do work properly.

Zoo Hospital literally starts with players being dropped off at a “world famous” zoo where your Aunt Lucy works as a veterinarian. She’s been kind enough to let you intern there for the summer. You’ll be helping her examine a range of sick common and exotic species in the zoo as you also go around and meet new arrivals. Sadly, that’s all you’ll need to know of the story because that’s all there is to it.

Initially, only 10 animals inhabit the zoo, but it seems you can’t throw a rock without hitting a new arrival. New creatures constantly come flooding in at a steady rate, at least for awhile. You’ll max out around 40 animals, and at that point all that’s left is to continue treating the same creature over and over again. Aunt Lucy encourages you to meet the different animals in her care, and as they become sick she walks you through the process of diagnosing and treating their illness.

Zoo Hospital screenshot

In the main interface, the top screen shows a 2D map of the zoo with paw prints indicating the location of animals. The lower screen gives a closer look at what animals are located where. Tapping a portrait of an animal triggers its sound, lets you meet the animated creature face-to-face, and presents a paragraph of informative notes about the species. Surprisingly, the facts are actually pretty interesting as they cover the size and weight of the creature, its natural habitat, its mannerisms, and even identifying features.

The zoo interface itself is decent enough, but it’s pretty dull to look at, and you’ll be staring at it frequently to search for the next sick animal. In contrast, the animations and graphics for the animals are excellent as is the sole character portrait of Aunt Lucy. The various operation mini-games which make-up the bulk of the actual gameplay lie somewhere in between. Fortunately, you’ll spend more with the animals than on the map.

Zoo Hospital screenshot

An animal’s portrait will flash when it becomes ill, and tapping the icon lets you bring the creature into an operating room outfitted with the latest animal life-saving equipment. While on the examination table, the animal will exhibit behavior relating to its sickness or injury. Aunt Lucy also provides an extremely brief clue about the creature’s problem. Then it’s up to you to properly diagnose the condition so it may be treated. This is where Zoo Hospital begins to shine.

Coming up with a correct diagnosis requires you to run a battery of different tests on the creature. You can check its pulse, weight, respiratory rate, and temperature, x-ray body parts, magnify different areas, and use a microscope to check blood, skin, and hair. In each case you’ll use the touch screen to drag the icon onto the specific area of the creature you wish to check.

Zoo Hospital screenshot

Once a reading is gained, you’re given the option to operate. Before slicing and dicing willy-nilly you must compare its vitals to the baseline information contained in DOCC (Doctor’s Observational Computerized Clipboard). If something seems abnormal, then you can indicate an operation is necessary. Players will often have to run more tests to locate numerous problems before they can actually begin to operate on the animal. If you make a mistake during the examination, Aunt Lucy will gently scold you and take the animal away, forcing you to start all over again. When you do arrive at a proper diagnosis you’ll move on to the treatment phase which incorporates a wide range of short operation mini-games.

Player will engage in operations ranging from dentistry, shaving hotspots, injecting antibiotics, repairing broken bones, and extraction of foreign objects, among others. The accompanying touch screen mini-games will have you doing things like removing forks from maze-like stomachs, battling blood diseases by wiping out the diseased cells with the stylus, and suturing bite wounds. Sometimes an animal will not require an invasive operation, and it’s left to heal on its own. Other times it just needs some gentle petting to be calmed down. The mini-games look good, but they’re short and sweet. Think of them as extremely simplified, kid-friendly style operations similar to those found in Trauma Center. Players are given a grade based on how well you (they rather than you) did with each operation. As you continue to successfully treat different species , the game gives you medals and awards for your efforts, and collecting these trophies is the only discernable objective – aside from making the animal feel better.

There must be something horribly wrong with the drinking water at this zoo since it seems animals are prone to becoming sick at a rapid pace. As soon as you cure one creature another falls ill. After the initial thrill of diagnosis and treatments wears off, the game quickly steers into a rut of repetition. You’ll be curing the same creatures of slightly different ailments again and again with little new in the way of variation. Once you’ve played all the mini-games a few times each , there’s not much else to look forward to.

The addition of more zoo locations, perhaps an actual plot with real story twists, or really just anything thrown in to break up the monotony that sets in after an hour or so of play would greatly extend the life of this title and push it closer to being a hit. A meager multi-player option lets you cooperate with a friend during operations: one of you will do the dirty work while the other pets the animal to keep it calm. Occasionally good graphics, somewhat interesting mini-games, and a good game concept fail to save Zoo Hospital in light of the fact so much more could have been done to make the game feel more complete. There was a lot of potential for greatness here, so hopefully next time around the developers take the extra time to go the distance.


  • Explore the amazing world of animals and learn about animal care and endangered and exotic species. Budding vets can become experts on their favorites.
  • Use the Touch Screen and stylus in medical mini games to treat varied illnesses. Administer injections, apply ointment, pull teeth, remove deadly microbes, X-Ray organs, and much more.
  • Treat 40 different patients from the bird, mammal, and reptile families. Start with 10 unlocked animals including: eagle, kangaroo, jaguar, zebra, chimp, panda, hyena, male lion, fossa, and cobra.
  • Discover how best to calm stressed species through soothing touch.
  • Develop new skills via observation, problem solving and motor control that help you successfully decipher a patient’s body language, perform a thorough examination, and then determine the most appropriate treatment.
  • Consult the Doctor’s Observational Computerized Clipboard (DOCC) to learn what’s ailing your patient while checking vital signs and statistics.
  • Get help from, or help a friend in, 2-player cooperative multiplayer.
  • Earn award plaques for your trophy room as you become an expert vet.

    Animals, operations, and characters look good, but the zoo does not. 3.4 Control
    Stylus controls are solid for the mini-games and other activities. Menu navigation and the need to constantly tap back and forth between dialogue and exams during the diagnosis phase are mildly irritating. 2.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    Nothing really amazing stands out in terms of audio. The music is calm and generic, animal sounds are cute but simple. 2.4

    Play Value
    The game starts out with promise, and for a short time it’s enjoyable, but before long the fun takes a nosedive.

    2.9 Overall Rating – Average
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

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