Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: 7

Sound: 6

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

When I was in elementary school, I knew a guy whose slam dunking ability made Michael “Air” Jordan look like he could barely jump rope, let alone grab enough air to slam dunk a basketball. This guy was SO good in fact, that he was kicked off the basketball team for suspected use of flubber, or some other such slam-dunk-enhancing device. Not only could he jump higher and hang in mid air longer than Jordan, he could actually change directions in mid-air. He was banned not only from basketball, but all school sports, all the way through high school and college.

His hopes of becoming a professional ball player dashed, like so many shards of backboard Plexiglas at the hands of EA’s star of Shaq-Fu, this guy I knew gave up his dreams of playing in the NBA.

As fate would have it, the path he chose, humble as it may have seemed at the time, thrust him into a bigger spotlight than the NBA ever could have. Maybe you’ve heard of him. His name is Zeke. And he’s a Zoo Keeper.

He gets up. And nothing ever gets him down. Except for bulletproof animals and coconut tossing monkeys. And maybe rainy days and Mondays, because, you know, those always get ME down. In Taito’s Zoo Keeper, Zeke is the master of the jump. He’s “Air” Zeke. And as long as you can remember that simple facet of Zoo Keeper, you’ll do just fine.

Presuming everyone knows how to play Zoo Keeper, here’s the condensed version of the game play. As Zeke it’s your job to fence in the animals by building a brick wall around their cage. Each time an animal ricochets off the brick wall, the wall breaks down. Zeke can fill in the bricks by simply running around the cage. If animals breach the brick wall, Zeke can jump over them or send them back into the cage by using the net. The net appears for a very limited time during each round, and Zeke has to grab it before it disappears.

Zeke takes a break from the zoo every now and then, but he never quite manages to escape from the animal onslaught. The first time he’s away from the zoo, he’s faced with the most dire of dilemmas: his girlfriend, Zelda, has been taken hostage by a nasty, coconut-tossing monkey. The monkey is holding Zelda captive at the top of a screen filled with moving platforms, coconuts, and bonus prizes. Zeke has to jump his way on up the screen and rescue his sweetheart.

Zeke’s second foray away from the zoo involves a tiered screen of escalators. Underneath each escalator is a cage, and out of each cage spills an endless stream of animals. Once again, Zeke must hurdle the animals, head up the escalators, and save Zelda from some invisible force that compels her to wait for rescue instead of doing something more constructive, like just going home.

Zoo Keeper is a game for the greedy point master inside all of us. And the key to scoring big points in Zoo Keeper is… you guessed it. Jumping.

While it’s true that picking up some of the later prizes and capturing some of the later animals will net the player lots and lots of points, clever jumping is the quickest way to inflate the score.

The first chance to really pump up your score is on monkey round number one. Instead of actually rescuing Zelda, just land on the top ledge WITHOUT touching her. You’ll score points for landing on the ledge, AND, if you jump off and back on the top ledge, the points scored are double what they were on the previous jump. If you can keep it up, you’ll soon be scoring a whopping 300,000 points per landing. Cool, huh? The tricky part is managing to land without inadvertently rescuing Zelda, and trying to successfully move through a screen that quickly fills up with coconuts. Scoring note: although the on-screen score rolls over at a million, the computer keeps track of how many points you’ve actually scored and the high score table will reflect the true score.

The second chance for some rapid score inflation is during the escalator scenarios. Like the monkey rounds, the idea here is to NOT rescue Zelda right away. Instead, jump over all the animals on a given ledge and go BACK to the starting point to wait for more. Since the point value for jumping animals increases exponentially with each additional animal jumped, you’ll soon be landing ludicrous point jumps each time you land. Provided, of course, that you nail the landing. The landing is key, without a successful landing, you’re toast with no points. So, I guess you’re an English muffin or a bagel or something.

Zoo Keeper is easy to learn, yet difficult to master. It’s got simple, iconic, cartoony graphics, and has lots of clever touches sprinkled throughout. One nice touch is the zoo screen timeline; it’s a long fuse that releases prizes as it burns down, ultimately exploding (thus ending the round) when it reaches “END.” Another nice bonus: if the player clumsily dies within a few seconds of starting a game, they’re given a free replay of that life. A particularly favorite embellishment appears on the second escalator round. If the player rescues Zelda on the first escalator round, Zeke and Zelda kiss, as hearts fill up the area around the reunited couple. On the second escalator round, a window shade drops down in front of the couple, obscuring their implied, uh, joy. The music and sounds are great too. Well, maybe not ALL of the sounds are great. The “jump” sound has a tendency to get on some players’ nerves, but otherwise… Zoo Keeper is an outstanding game that’s definitely something to jump up and down about. Ah, can’t ya see what I mee-eean? Might as well jump…


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 03:37 PM