Zookeeper has been one of the biggest puzzle hits of the last few years. Originally an online game, it was ported to the Nintendo DS and recently appeared on iPhone and iPad, and now finds its way into the hands of Android users, in the DX Touch Edition.
The basic gameplay here is very similar to Bejewelled, although please don’t let that put you off; this isn’t just another Bejewelled clone, but has its own identity and is actually a far superior game and one of the very best puzzle games currently available for Android.
The premise of the game is that you are a zookeeper, frantically trying to round-up a whole load of escaped zoo animals before your boss fires you. To do this, you must play a seemingly simple match three puzzle game and gather a set amount of animals on each level.
The screen is comprised of animal blocks, which you can slide around, one block at a time in order to line up matching rows and columns of three or more identical animals. When you match three or more, those animals disappear and are replaced by more that fall from the top, and the timer is increased a little. You can use this to string together combos for extra points if you are quick and clever enough. Indeed, this is a skill that you will need to master on the later stages.
The thing that sets this apart from the litany of other match three puzzlers is the fact that you have to gather a set amount of each animal on each stage, leading to some frantic gameplay as you try to get the last couple of creatures before the timer runs out. It is great because it forces you to think tactically, as there are always some animals that are rarer than others, and the inclusion of one random animal that goes for double points just adds to the mix.
The second thing that makes Zookeeper stand out are the fantastically cute graphics. The colours are so vivid and bright, with superbly designed animals and it all moves as smoothly as you would like with no Android system related slowdown present at all. In short, it looks gorgeous and this makes it a joy to play, as does the brilliant music.
There is a decent level of presentation, with a nice little intro detailing the story, great ‘break’ animations every few levels and an angry boss awaiting you when you fail. There are two modes to play through, the ‘normal’ mode that I have described above where you proceed through the levels with the amount of animals required increasing each time, and also a special ‘Tokoton’ mode that sees you trying to get 100 animals to increase the level. This mode is a bit longer lasting than the normal mode and provides a welcome change of pace, although once you pass 100 for an animal the difficulty starts to ramp up a lot.
The game stores your best times for both modes, and there is integrated Facebook and Twitter score posting and invites, a feature that many more games should embrace. The lack of proper online scores is a bit disappointing, and Zookeeper does feel like it needs a trip to the OpenFient vet.
This game is so addictive it should come with a health warning. It is literally the most addictive mobile game I have played in a long time, and as Editor here, I go through a lot of games which should tell its own story. With great gameplay, gorgeous looks and a shockingly addictive core, Zookeeper is the best pure puzzle game on Android.
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