Zookeeper is a special game for me personally. It was one of the first Nintendo DS games I owned, way back when the console was new and there wasn’t much more, besides Mario and Polarium to play.
The difference between those other launch titles and this game was that this one was intensely social. The multiplayer, despite being a simple competitive match three game, was addictive. I’m talking two hour straight game play sessions addictive. Regular nights gaming until 2am was a great bonding experience with my various family members, and then again when I met my better half.
|This game has no problem telling you when you’ve done poorly|
And then the single player game got me through many long trips and shorter commutes. I lent the game to my parents when they flew to the other side of the world, and it helped them greatly as well. I still own the cartridge – it’s the only launch title I’ve kept.
There was nothing outwardly special in the game. It was little more than a cute reskin of Bejewelled – with a strong emphasis on the word ‘cute,’ – but it also lacked any kind of pretentious. It just worked, and earning better high scores across the various different gameplay modes was incredibly addictive stuff.
So when Zookeeper popped up on the App store for the iPad, I was always going to buy it. And at $AU2.50, it’s a genuine competitor for the best game the iPad has seen. Touch and swipe with the finger manages to work even better than stylus controls – helped greatly by the very big icons you’re working with this time. It’s literally impossible not to be accurate playing this game.
The difficulty curve remains steady, but challenging. Anyone who has played a Bejewelled or other match-3 game (and I’m going to assume that this is everyone who has ever played a game) knows exactly what to expect here – there’s not a single unique feature to the game, other than the fact the icons are cute zoo animals this time. There’s two game modes, but both involve the same goal – remove an even supply of each type of zoo animal – there’s no point in removing a thousand lions while you ignore the giraffes.
|Later on you have to handle cute pink bunnies as well|
The early levels give you plenty of time to plan your strategy and line up combos. A few levels later and the timer bar drops far too quickly to give you time to think. You have a limited supply of hint icons to use, and you can unlock more by reaching certain score targets.
And that’s it. There are no difficulty options in this version of the game, and there is a three panel “story” introduction that is told in the kind of broken English that is charming enough that it almost looks different. That means that this is version of the game features far fewer features than the Nintendo DS, or even Nintendo GBA versions of the game, and it hurts that multiplayer is one of the features that has been lost (Bluetooth should have been an option), but at $2.50 there’s only so much you can expect. And to be fair, the online leaderboards are a nice addition that wasn’t present in the DS game.
|So, so adorable|
In the end, this remains a hugely charming and addictive game, and with bigger icons to play with, it’s even more intuitive than ever before. The music has even been improved in the years; it’s still no orchestral masterpiece, but it’s pleasant.
If you like match-3 puzzlers, and you have and iPad, do yourself a favour and invest in this game.