Rating: E (Everyone)
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Success Co./Buddiez, Inc.
Release Date: 10/11/2005
Way back in January, I reviewed Zoo Keeper for the DS. I had mentioned there that it was actually the second version of the game, as the original version had come out in Japan on the GBA, under the moniker Zooo. Well, if you’ve heard good things about that game, then your prayers have been answered; it may be a bit late, but Zooo‘s coming to a store near you!
The promotional materials for Zoo Keeper claimed that it had a “highly relevant plot involving an actual zoo keeper.” The same tale applies in Zooo. The animals at a local zoo are rioting, because the cigar-chomping owner is a jerk. So you get hired by this guy to capture all the animals and put them back in place. Cheesy, yes, but c’mon, this is a puzzle game. Stories in such titles have never been their strong point, and were never designed as such. Tetris never had a story, after all. Adding a silly story to a puzzle game is a nice touch, and in this case, it actually works.
Zooo‘s graphics may be simplistic, but they’re extremely effective.
The “cubist” style applied to all of the animals and characters really makes the game stand out. Sure, they’re cutesy and brightly colored, but who cares? It gets the point across. You’re well aware at all times which animal is a lion, or a panda, or a rabbit. The game may not have fancy 3D-rendered characters or 60fps animation, but it doesn’t need it. The graphics convey all of the information that they need to, and they pull it off brilliantly.
This is where Zooo really sets itself apart from Zoo Keeper. The music in the DS game was atrocious, but the tunes in Zooo are fantastic! The soundtrack will get stuck in your head, and unlike the latest pop-punk track from the Tony Hawk series, this is a good thing. Sure, you can turn off the music, sound, and digitized speech if you want to, but why would you? It may not push the GBA hardware to its limits, but it’s great background music to a fun puzzler.
CONTROL & GAMEPLAY
Playing the game couldn’t be any simpler. To capture animals, you need to line up three or more matching ones horizontally or vertically. You grab one with the “A” button, then tap a the D-pad, which will swap the animal grabbed with the one sitting in whatever direction you choose. The goal is to switch a pair of animals to create a matched set of three or more; if they don’t match, the animals will return to where they were. This control scheme is identical in each of Zooo‘s gameplay modes, but the objectives you must accomplish in each are quite different. I should also point out that there are more animals onscreen at once in Zooo than in Zoo Keeper; the sprites are a bit more simplistic (though not by much), but the added numbers do improve the action a bit.
- Normal mode is just your standard Zooo game. You capture a set quota of animals, then you move on to the next level.
- Time Attack mode is more of the same, except you try to get the highest score possible within six minutes.
- Totokon mode is Normal mode on crack. Here, you need to capture a hundred of any single animal in order to get to the next level, but there’s a catch: the number of other captured animals stays constant. So if you nab a hundred lions, you’ll jump to the next level, but if you also had ninety-seven monkeys, the instant you get three more, you’ll level up again. This can make the action quite frantic.
- Score Attack mode is similar to Time Attack, except that you need to see how fast you can reach 200,000 points.
- Finally, we’ve got Quest mode, easily the best of the bunch. Here, the owner of the zoo gives you eight missions, and at the end of each, he’ll award or subtract points based on your performance. Some of the missions are fairly simple; for example, capture twenty lions while capturing as few of the other animals as possible. Later, they get a lot more difficult, like getting thirty chains, or capturing each type of animal only once. While the eight missions are always the same, you’ll need different strategies each time you play in order to succeed.
Sadly, unlike Zoo Keeper, there’s no 2P mode. Still, the solid gameplay of the other modes makes up for it.
While there’s no unlockable items or second quests, Zooo is just as replayable as any other puzzle game. You’ll try to make it to a higher level, you’ll try to make it to the high scores board, you’ll try to beat your top scores. Since it can played in either short bursts or for long periods, that only furthers the replay value.
The difficulty in Zooo gradually ramps up, as would be expected in a puzzle game. The randomness of the boards can sometimes be a thorn in your side, though, especially when time begins to run short. That’s all part of the fun, right?
If you’ve ever played the online Flash game Bejeweled, then you’ve played Zooo. The only difference is that there’s animals instead of gems! Luckily, Zooo excels with the various gameplay modes and quirky graphics. It’s a very rare example of a simple clone that manages to surpass the game it was based on. That alone saves this game from getting the dreaded zero originality rating.
Zooo is one of those games where you plan on playing for maybe five to ten minutes, and two hours later, you’re still playing. At face value, it doesn’t seem like it would be all that addicting, but once you try it, you can’t stop. Zooo will definitely keep you amused.
This is a tough call. I’m a firm believer in “don’t knock it until you try it” when it comes to games, and Zooo is no exception to the rule. Some gamers may roll their eyes at the colorful, cubical graphics, or even lump the game into that stupid “kiddie” category. But I guarantee that if you just sit down and play the thing for a little while, you’ll have a newfound appreciation of Zooo, regardless of whether you decide to eventually buy it.
The lack of a 2P mode does sting Zooo a bit, I won’t deny that. It’s still a nice diversion for GBA owners, especially if they’ve played Zoo Keeper on a friend’s DS and wanted a piece of the action. It’s a step away from the “falling block puzzlers” that flood the market, that’s for sure.
Control & Gameplay: 8/10
Overall Score: 74/100
FINAL SCORE: 7.5 (GOOD!)