Puzzle games aren't exactly the most popular games in the world but one area they seem to always succeed is the handheld format. It could be that the games are so suitable for quick play that traveling just seems the way to play the game, or perhaps it is because you can't really do anything else on transport that the monotony of a puzzle game doesn't seem so much. Zoo Keeper is a game that is very much along these lines, extremely simple in concept but perhaps, surprisingly, one of the best launch titles for the Nintendo DS system. Once you get moving these animals you won't be able to stop.
As with any puzzle game the storyline is incredibly weak. You're a young zoo keeper, working in a zoo, when the animals riot and break out from their cages. It's your job to get them back into the cage but there are certain conditions imposed upon you during certain game modes. As said, very weak but once you start playing you will forget about the story.
The gameplay is extremely basic. On the screen a number of zoo animal's heads are shown in a variety of order. The aim is to clear the screen and build points of the animals. To do this you line up three of the same head either up or down (sadly, no diagonals) by moving the heads with the stylus. This is by far the best game for stylus use thus far, in fact without it, we'd wager it's flat out impossible. So you move the animals head left right up or down and if there is a match the game will eliminate the heads. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the game will not lock the heads unless there is a match. So it's not like one of those puzzles where you slide small blocks around to make a picture, its a lot more complicated. To make things worse you have a timelimit and at first it is extremely hard, but if you stick with it, one of the best DS games around will be found, and you will be surprised at the depth of the game.
There are a number of game modes on offer which all revolve around the basic move of moving heads. The main game mode where you just play until you run out of time, Tokoton where gaining 100 of the same animal will level you up making the game harder, Quest, where your boss gives you instructions such as chaining animal captures together or capturing X number of a certain animal and the time attack.
The visuals of the game as you might expect are fairly bland but the animals have a unique graphic style which makes the cute and cuddly. The heads do animate while waiting for you to move them but other than that you won't find much to look at other then the small cut scenes the game contains. Sound effects are fairly impressive and there is no voice acting. Two players can play with one cartridge which is always a welcome addition to a DS game.
Zoo Keeper is a game that will surprise DS owners, probably unfortunately ignoring it for other launch titles due to the fact it's a puzzle title. The fact is, once those games are completed, you will still be playing Zoo Keeper, it can't be finished and games are never the same twice. Zoo Keeper is no doubt one of, if not the best DS title available at the current time.
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