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Video Game / Zoo Keeper (2003)

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Zoo Keeper is a Match-Three Game developed by Kiteretsu. It was originaly a web game, but due to great popularity in Japan it got ported over to arcades, the Game Boy Advance (as Zooo), the Playstation 2 (as Zoo Puzzle), the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo 3DS (which is exclusive to Japan). It went on to receive smartphone ports as well as a competitive online version called Zookeeper Battle.

The game plays much like Bejeweled in that you match a minimum of three blocks in a row to erase them, but unlike how that series worked in the beginning, it wisely allows you to keep moving tiles while a chain is progressing to extend it as further as you can.

Gameplay modes from the DS release include Normal Zookeeper (meet a quota of every animal), Tokoton (get 100 tiles of any animal), Quest (clear a variety of objectives as quickly as possible) and Time Attack (same as Zookeeper but with a six-minute limit). The 3DS remake adds a "clear this stack in a single move" Puzzle mode and a Encho Battle mode with the rules from Zookeeper Battle.

This game features the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: The game is really about a guy suffering under his cranky old man, though it is left up to interpretation if the Curator treated him that badly ever since his mother died.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • The limited Binoculars item reveals all possible matches in the board.
    • In Zookeeper mode, you'll know when you've got one last quota to meet because the corresponding animal will start making angry faces. This is so you won't lose focus by needing to look at the quotas on the top screen.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: If three SP panels are lined together in a column or a row, they wipe the entire board out and award a ton of points. Now what are the chances of that ever happening?
  • Bald of Evil: The Curator is nearly bald except for a single wavy hair sticking out like an antenna.
  • Big Bad: The zoo's jerkass Curator is deliberately mistreating the animals, which causes them to riot and break loose.
  • Combos: What made Zoo Keeper actually a bit more fun than Bejeweled is that you remain in control of the matrix while a chain is in progress. However, the GBA port inexplicably lacks this feature.
  • Drama Bomb Finale: The Excuse Plot of the game is that you're a Zookeeper working for the Curator, a Pointy-Haired Boss. If you get past level 20 in Zookeeper mode... You find the Curator is the Zookeeper's father. His wife died in an accident while they were managing the zoo, so he began to hate his job and everything that had to do with it. Thanks to his son's efforts, however, he sees the error of his ways and promises to treat him better from them on.
  • Difficulty Levels: Easy, Normal, Hard and Super Hard. To unlock that last one, you need a top high score on every mode. Including Quest mode...
  • Game-Over Man: Every time you lose, the Zookeeper gets insulted by the Curator in either a harsh or nonsensical way. If you clear any mode, he gets praised instead.
    "You don't feel like doing anything, do you? You are a failure."
  • Heel Realization: The Curator turns over a new leaf at the end.
    "I blamed my wife's death on all the animals in the zoo. Finally I see the reality. My son, I was wrong."
  • The Hero: The titular Zookeeper is expected to clean up his boss' mess.
  • Heroic Mime: The Zookeeper never speaks.
  • It's All My Fault: The Curator's wife died either from an accident or from overworking herself and he spent decades guilt-ridden over it.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • Quest mode was widely criticized for being heavily reliant on luck. One example is the level that requires you to only match each animal only once. Who could have guessed that years later people would be paying real money to perform well in those kinds of puzzle games?
    • Curiously, Quest mode in the GBA version is much more fair. The equivalent of the "match each animal once" asks you to clear them in a certain order and doesn't reset if you (are forced to) clear the wrong kind. Taking too long to clear a task doesn't cut your score either.
  • Nintendo Hard: Good luck getting past level 20 in the GBA version's Zookeeper mode. It is much harder due to how you can't prolong chains.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: The GBA version has no story at all, and both main characters are adapted out.
  • Power-Up: SP panels will clear all tiles of a single random type once tapped and significantly restore the timer. They randomly appear from the top of the screen, and, unlike in Bejeweled, clearing 4-5 tiles in a row does nothing special.
  • The Reveal: The ending reveals the Curator's motivations and who the Zookeeper really is.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: The web version spells "Normal mode" as "Nomal".
  • Timed Mission: Every mode is timed.
  • Too Awesome to Use: SP panels are best used to refill the timer when in trouble, rather than to just get a handful of one animal panel kind at once.
  • Tragic Dream: The Curator wanted to create the world's greatest zoo, and feels responsible for his wife dying on the job.
  • Wham Line: "There was a man".
  • A Winner Is You:
    • Averted, as the game does have a rather surprising ending.
    • Played straight in the GBA version, which just has a show of fireworks.