Familiar Gameplay, New Experience

” All Art is Theft” Pablo Picasso once said, to be even more precise Games are derivative I say. Zoo Keeper illustrates this maxim and in true salon fashion potentially builds upon this theft to create something valid.

The Theft

The most striking example of the thievery is the basic gameplay. This, simply stated, is Bejeweled with comical animals replacing the jewels. The object is to “capture” the animals by swapping two adjacent animals to form rows of three. This “capture” results in their vaporizing in the classic columns physics model. Next, there are five differing game modes, also taken from the Bejeweled universe, derivative, but more on that later. Finally, the game utilizes old school NES 8-bit style music to add to the atmosphere. The proceeding comprises the borrowed elements of games past.

The Artful Derivation Produced

Leading the way in improving on the borrowed elements is potential use of the stylus/touch screen. It might be possible use the D-pad for control in Zoo Keeper, but would you want to. The stylus/touch screen combination promises a more natural flow of control, not offered in the Bejeweled mouse controlled variants. Secondly, the planned utilization of the top screen during game play to animate comical zoo/animal scenes proposes a lighter atmosphere. This possibility of comical animations is a pleasing contrast to the sterile/clinical feel that the Bejeweled variants posses. Lastly, the use of the old school 8-bit NES style music, while technically not innovative, also helps to create the lighter environment not found in past efforts.

The Five Game Modes

The first is simply Zoo Keeper; this form of play has set goal for animal captures per level. Reach the set goal and advance to the next level with an incremental rise in difficulty. There are thirty levels in all each requiring that you capture all eight different animal types before your time runs out. The only way to regain time is to form capture combos as quickly as possible. There is also a way to raise the scoring by focusing on the “Lucky” animal type for that level. This also triggers a comical reaction from that animal on the second screen, adding to the lighter feel the game creates.

Tokoton 100 follows along the same lines as Zoo Keeper but slows the progress while creating a strategy element. The goal for level advancement is set at 100 animals, but you have to capture all 100 from the same type. Collect all rabbits to 100, then monkeys to 100, that being the pattern the collection process forces choices to keep the difficulty from rapidly advancing. With a correct plan of animal capture you regulate the increase in difficulty as you go.

The Time Attack mode that Zoo Keeper utilizes literally becomes a struggle against time. The objective being collect as many animal combos as possible before a six minute deadline runs out. This most simply tests your ability to quickly form the most combos as possible. Simplicity.

Quest mode charts the most new territory of all by introducing some RPG elements. This comes in the form of the Zoo Owner issuing you specific jobs to complete. These jobs are both challenging and demand detailed completion of the task. Your score will reflect your ability to complete tasks as quickly and accurately as possible. Quest produces an experience, once again, not usually found in Bejeweled type games.

The Versus / 2 player mode begins with the surprisingly practical fact that you only need one cartridge to play with a friend. Upon connection via Infrared, your screen is the normal touch screen but your opponent’s game appears on the top screen. The competition is based on your setting up the capture combos before your opponent does. There is a dual effect for scoring first, points are accumulated of course but you also take time off your opponent’s clock. The back and forth of the gameplay is bolstered by a power up system of four icons, to be used to gain advantage over an opponent. The heart icon replaces some of your time, while the bucket icon turns your opponents animals gray making combo creation more difficult. The binoculars icon closely resembles a help button like those found on other variants, and the last icon changes one animal symbol to the curators face. The short term icon use in conjunction with effective capturing can produce winning results.

Summarily, the borrowed elements that make up Zoo Keeper’s gameplay appear to have been artfully improved upon, creating the game character. Outwardly this character may appear kiddy like in nature, but you might find yourself surprised and even addicted to gameplay.

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