Do do DOOT DO DOO DO doot dodo. What is this ear piercing atrocity? It’s the glorious sound of an entire Zoo trying to squeeze out of your compressed phone speaker. Zoo Keeper has been around for a little while and saw moderate success on the Nintendo DS over a decade ago when the system launched. Since then there was a 3DS title that only released in Japan, and a phone game (iOS and Android) that has been quietly gaining momentum for the last 6 years. I recently downloaded Zoo Keeper Battle on my phone and was surprised to see 2 million people in the rankings. After losing some games I then realised there’s more than 3 million ranks… how low can I go? Anyway, this game is free and perhaps even better than the original DS game, with significantly more events and customisation.
Mobile games are something I’ve never really gotten into. They either feel watered-down with improvised touch screen controls or just lacking in gameplay entirely for a more grindy gacha experience. I know there are some quality games on there, but I’m just not someone who uses their phone a lot for games. Zoo Keeper is the first game I’ve ever kept on my phone screen for more than a day so I thought it was worth a writeup. What makes this game so good?
Firstly the thing that taints many mobile games is bad controls. Zoo Keeper is a touch-only puzzle game that does not lose anything in its transition to mobile, in fact this is the best way to play it while you scan the screen for animals and touch where you’re looking. A fast pointer is essential and the animal blocks are big enough where you don’t need super precision in your touch screen either. My phone is pretty bad and Zoo Keeper runs great on it. It’s very fast and fluid and that’s how you have to be in the heat of battle. It feels natural.
The second thing that translates well to a phone screen is the visual style. While match-3 gameplay is quite common, Zoo Keeper has a unique consistent design with cute animals that are easily recognisable and distinguishable with different colours. The gameplay is also dynamic enough to allow you to switch panels while your previous animal blocks are still falling. The phone game adds even more cuteness as you can unlock and add accessories to your animal, choose a greeting and even create your own Zoo.
Playing online is another thing that sets this apart from the previous versions of Zoo Keeper. Apparently the 3DS game had online play, but it never released outside of Japan. This is pretty much the main mode here as the name “Zoo Keeper Battle” suggests, and you need to be online to play it. Thankfully instead of a dead handheld game, this game has millions of active users. After a few seconds it finds an opponent for you, and in my experience they’ve all been similar ranking which makes the games close and fun. Just be careful when playing your highly experienced friend, there are some very talented Zoo Keepers out there.
During gameplay, some animals give you attack, some defense, and there’s a special animal each game that gives both. It’s pretty exciting seeing you and your opponents health bars trade places after each round. There’s also different types of gameplay in the quests, for example a mode where you have to find stars hidden behind panels, or a mode where you only get one single move to chain every carefully placed animal on the screen.
Of course being a mobile game means it has a different structure of gacha inserted into it now. They have to make money somehow. It doesn’t really seem to be a problem with this however, I’ve spent 0 dollars and played it about as much as the DS game at this point. You are just limited to play 6 games until your CP runs out, and every few minutes it restores by 1. It’s designed so that by the time you look at your phone again you’ll have stuff to do. I rarely touch mobile games at all, let alone gacha games but I just see Zoo Keeper as a daily offering of solid gameplay. I think the well-designed gameplay and good interface sets it apart. By the time I’ve done 5 or 6 games I’m back to my day anyway. The game also hands out bonuses very generously and I’ve got power bottles to refresh my CP now. You can also play unlimited practice games offline, which work just the same as VS but with a CPU.
I’m not as far down the Zoo Keeper rabbit hole as some people *cough* you know who you are *cough* and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of progression in this game. I mainly just wrote this to recommend the game to people who might not know it exists. I know quite a few people were enamoured with the DS game back in the day, and now it’s a free download on your phone. I was delighted to discover that this game is still going strong. It’s just a great game with cute designs and has remained consistent in its style, gameplay and support for over a decade now.
The animals are very expressive which is charming to see in such simple designs, it creates a very wholesome feeling overall. If you like it a lot and spend a few bucks on items, then it’s still probably cheaper than the $40 DS game. Just don’t go overboard because it is possible to spend a ton. Or do it because it’s your life. The positive to Zoo Keeper being so active is that the game is expanding every day with new events, and if we’re lucky we might get a Switch version eventually with more multiplayer options and cute animal animations. Until then Zoo Keeper Battle is an awesome game to have on your phone and a pleasant experience. Just remember the bottom right music icon can toggle music on and off, and don’t forget to…
ALL OF THEM.