Zoo Keeper (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 12.03.2005

The Nintendo DS is already home to some excellent puzzle games, with Polarium, Mr Driller: Drill Spirits and Meteos, amongst others, but there is more on the way. One, in particular, is a game called Zoo Keeper by Japanese company Success. But has Ignition made the right choice publishing this over in Europe and should you give it a go? Why not read on to find out...

You start up the game to a strange little introductory story that is set, amazingly enough, in a zoo. This is no ordinary zoo, though, as it is historic, lies on the outskirts of town and has animals that are about to revolt because of the annoying curator that is threatening them, saying they cannot have their food any more. To cease the uprising, the curator hires you, the Zoo Keeper, to bring order to the chaos. But just how do you tame monkeys, elephants, giraffes, pandas, rabbits, crocodiles and lions? Time to get a-puzzling!

Screenshot for Zoo Keeper on Nintendo DS

The world of puzzle games has never really be an aesthetically pleasing one, as many believe a high level of graphics are not necessary for the experience, and some even state that fancy visuals may prove to be too much of a distraction. However, Tetris Attack on the SNES had wonderful Yoshi's Island-esque visuals and It's Mr Pants has a wonderful crayon-style look to it. Zoo Keeper, on the other hand, is nothing special at all in the visual stakes and considering it is on a system that has been likened to a slightly more powerful Nintendo 64 that is quite appalling. The whole thing is stylised in a square fashion, with a block-natured curator, right through to the square animals. Nothing is fancy or flash, and the whole look is easily forgettable. The only real plus point is that the resolution is extremely crisp and the colours are bright and colourful. This certainly will not sell on looks alone...

...And neither will it sell on its audio quality. The voice-over lady is clear through the DS stereo speakers, but she is used only on the odd occasion. The rest of the game is littered with annoying tunes that whine away in the background and grow ridiculously annoying after just a short time, leaving you with no option but to either change the sound options or simply turn the volume down and save a little extra battery life! Another gripe would be with some of the sound effects, which are too clicky and sharp at times. However, there are a few that have a space-shooter feel to them and are not too bad in all honesty. But there, again, is no sense of panic borne into the game via the music or sound effects. When the timer reaches half-empty, for instance, you would assume any other game to change the tone of the music in the background to give you a warning. Nope, not here. All that happens is that when it is almost too late an annoying noise repeatedly plays as the tiles start to shake...very frustrating, and not in the good way.

Screenshot for Zoo Keeper on Nintendo DS

There are so many puzzle games out there on the market and keeping track of how to play them all can be somewhat tiresome, as well as downright awkward. Just when you think that you have one down, along comes another one with a completely different play mechanic and throws you completely off. Just look at the way games like Tetris, Polarium, Mr Driller and even It's Mr Pants differ and you will see what I mean. Well, guess what? Zoo Keeper plays nothing like those at all! In fact, jump straight in without checking what the rules of play are and things could prove to be rather confusing, as they were for me when I first laid hands on it in Paris.

At the start you are given a choice of four modes of play, a two-player battle and the options screen, where you can choose between Easy, Normal and Hard difficulty levels, change the general settings or listen to the various music tracks found in the game. So the main focus is clearly on the four single-player modes, of which there are 'Normal', 'Tokoton', 'Quest' and 'Time Attack' to select from. Normal has players capturing a set number of animals in order to complete the level; Tokoton has you levelling-up by imprisoning one hundred creatures; Quest is comprised of ten stages, with the gamer trying to prevent the curator from defeating you; and finally there is Time Attack, in which you have just six minutes to achieve the highest possible score. There is certainly a high amount of variety when it comes down to it.

But just how do you go about capturing these crazy animals, though? Well, you are faced with a screen full of random animal faces, from the list mentioned above and your aim is to line-up three or more of the same kind to make them disappear. However, this is not like Tetris Attack / Panel de Pon / Pok

Screenshot for Zoo Keeper on Nintendo DS

There are little aids throughout, though, to ensure a modicum of fairness if your eyes are starting to play tricks on you due to the straining nature of scouring the play area looking for the last possible move available on the board. These come in the way of binoculars that briefly highlight where your next move should be, and a special panel that flicks through each animal rapidly and will remove every one of the type it stops on when you tap it with the stylus. Finally there is the 'No More Move' inclusion, whereby when there are no...more...moves...left on the field, the tiles are randomly jumbled up to help you continue before the timer runs out. The game proves to be addictive in some senses, but unfortunately seems to lack a major sense of urgency that many of the best puzzlers have. Therefore, you will find that it is more a game you will pick up once in a while to have a quick go on, rather than being glued to it all day and night. A nice attempt by Success, but just not in the upper echelons of the puzzling world...

With the various different modes on offer to the player and a two-player head-to-head mode that can be downloaded from just one media card, Zoo Keeper will last a fair old while. Yet there are other puzzle games out there on the Nintendo DS that will distract you more and keep you from playing this title for as long as the various modes take to complete. As previously stated, this is definitely more of a once in a while sort of game, rather than a major addiction.

Screenshot for Zoo Keeper on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Zoo Keeper is by no means a weak title. In fact, it is a surprisingly pleasant one. However, with some other stronger puzzle games lining up, two of which are out at launch alongside this one, recommending this over them would not be a wise move. Perhaps wait until this comes down in price and then think about giving it a whirl...









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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