Zoo Mania (Fanta) Review | RGCD - Everygamegoing

RGCD


Zoo Mania
By Fanta
Commodore 64

 
Published in RGCD #1

The DS classic ported to the humble C64!

Zoo Mania

Zoo Mania is a near perfect C64 port of the Nintendo DS arcade-puzzle classic Zoo Keeper, which in turn is arguably one of the better match-three casual games that hit the gaming scene after the success of Pop Cap's Bejeweled.

The core aim of Zoo Mania is for the player to switch adjacent tiles within the on-screen grid so that you create lines of three or more identical animals. On each level you have a list of the different zoo animals that you need to catch (by matching groups) before progressing to the next, more challenging stage. To make things harder the player also has a strict time limit in which to do this, although each successful group of animals caught boosts the timer by a small amount (giving you some vital extra time). When a group is matched they disappear from the grid and any tiles above them fall downwards to fill the space. If this results in a further line of three (or more) then the player is rewarded with bonus points for having set off a chain reaction.

For those of you unfamiliar with the DS game, one of the main differences between Zoo Keeper and Bejeweled (aside from the animal theme) is the ability to switch tiles/animals whilst another move is still in progress - resulting in the ability for the player to set up further chain reactions or matches of three in quick succession. Unfortunately this feature has not been included in Zoo Mania, meaning that the game is not as faithful to the original as I had hoped for.

Another sad omission is the lack of animal animation. In Zoo Keeper, the animals have two states - normal and 'angry'. When angry, they growl and vibrate within their on-screen tile (as well as also being represented by an unhappy face) - this usually happens when the timer is running out or if you have a specific type of animal left to collect that you've been unable to catch. It doesn't sound like much, but this really does add a lot of character to the game and it is a shame that it was not included in this C64 re-interpretation.

It's not all bad though. Gone are the ridiculous quest and story modes from the original, and instead Hannenz has thoughtfully included a couple of much-needed two player game modes - team and battle. In team mode the players take turns to move tiles (still using two joysticks) and all the points go into a joint account. However, in the competitive battle mode both players have a cursor on screen and can make moves simultaneously, meaning that you can steal chains that the other player has set up. This second game mode proves to be the game's strongest feature, although the one player mode is also still an enjoyable experience in its own right. It is also worth noting that the 'special' tile from the original has been included in the C64 version. Selecting this rapidly changing animal tile will result in a random animal type being caught and removed from the grid, normally resulting in further chains.

The version reviewed was the latest build of Zoo Mania, but the author has stated that there is still a rarely occurring bug that stops the game from recognising that there are no more possible moves. Unfortunately, Hannenz has been unable to find the cause of this but he has posted the source code on his web site in the hope that someone else can identify the problem. However, I played Zoo Mania for a good couple of hours without having any problems and it's fair to say that although the game is essentially flawed, it still remains an excellent C64 release.

The graphics and sound are suitably console-like and retain the look and feel of the original. There's nothing ground breaking here, but Zoo Mania is still a more than worthy addition to your C64 collection.

(Note that since writing this review Hannenz has advised that he plans to release a future bug-fixed release which will be available via Cronosoft).

James Monkman

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