Puzzle games can be wonderful things when they’re done right. You’ll either be playing one for far too long and waste days, or you’ll have played one for half and hour and get distracted by something else. Of all the (well, three) puzzles games I’ve played, Zoo Keeper falls into the former camp because of the variety of game modes and it is genuinely good fun and challenging.
The gameplay is simple; a move-timer decreases steadily, while matching at least three blocks in a row makes them disappear. The move-timer then increases slightly, more blocks drop down, and you proceed through the game by reaching the quota for each level. Points are accumalted, names put on the scoreboard, the previous 1st place player is gloated at. Repeat ad infinitum. For each level, one of the animals provides double-points, which is the best way of racking up points. There are five game modes: Normal (with mandatory wierd storyline for puzzle games) which sees you play up to level 20; Tokoton makes you progress only by collecting 100 of each animal; Quest has 10 stages of different challenges to test yourself; Time Attack gives you six minutes to show off your skill; and 2-player battle.
The concept is simple and it can be played without thinking; you just use the stylus and switch adjacent animal blocks to get three-in-a-row. Just keep an eye for those sneaky hiding animals and you’ll be fine. Or use one of your stocked up handy binoculars that highlight all the possible moves. Or just panic and not get anywhere. Or look out for other moves before your current three-block disappearance is complete. Or plan your moves ahead of time. The sound of chained disappearances gives a sense of being ‘in the zone’ and makes you want to keep that sound going, all of which sounds impressive to anyone else.
So what, you many ask, is so special about Zoo Keeper? It just sounds like Bejewelled. I suppose there isn’t anything special in it, but it implements a good puzzle formula with a slight twist of achievement levels. It gives you immediate fun; the 6-minute challenge is perfect for when you are waiting for someone. The return of old school scoreboard gives it replay value. It’s just pure and simple, unadulterated fun.