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Zoo Keeper [Nintendo DS] – Review

Zoo Keeper

Zoo Keeper is a game that has intrigued me since the early days of the Nintendo DS. In North America, it was the first game to release outside of the system’s launch window. A launch window that was a veritable drought – after the system’s November 21, 2004 launch, there weren’t any releases until this January 18, 2005 title. Even then, I don’t recall there being an actual noteworthy release until June 14, 2005 – Kirby: Canvas Curse. My curiosity in this game shouldn’t be construed as a belief in its quality either; after ten years of thinking about it, I refrained from hyping myself up for it which was a good call, as it’s merely a basic match-three puzzle game.

You crazy lion.
You crazy lion.

There are a handful of modes available to play, each a variation on the familiar match-three gameplay present in many like puzzle games. The quest mode in particular is quite ingenuitive. It’s not a beefy affair however, nor is there a lengthy distraction present. The drive for high scores or killing time would have to be one’s long-range motivator with this game. Fortunately, the underlying gameplay is solid and enjoyable. Bearing in mind that this released a year or two before the dawn of the App Store, this was a predecessor of sorts to the touch-controlled match-three games that are a deluge now. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly progressive in what it is – it’s just a basic, solid puzzle game that incorporated touch controls well.

The scoring in quest mode was unlike anything I've seen.
The scoring in quest mode was unlike anything I’ve seen.

It’s worth noting that I have played an Android version of Zoo Keeper in my ten year quest to experience this version. A year or so ago I downloaded a multiplayer focused version and had little more than a passing session with it. That says nothing of its quality and perhaps everything with my desire to abstain and experience the Nintendo DS game fresh. Ironically, I wound up not spending too much time with it either – no more than a few hours. Again, that says nothing of its quality. As I mentioned before, it’s a basic puzzle game that plays well. It may have curried more favor with me before my exposure to the match-three hell (heaven?) that is mobile gaming. It has a cute art style too.

El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron – Demo Impressions

What a name huh?

Based on spiritual texts, El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron is a visually stunning third-person action game set to be released for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on July 26, 2011. Developed and published by Ignition Entertainment it could be a sleeper hit this year. Employing third-person combat and platforming segments, it’s not that appealing on paper. What sells El Shaddai though is its art style. It looks unlike any other video game, and it’s something to see in motion.

The combat didn't really do it for me.

As Enoch, I was tasked with retrieving the Grigori, a group of angels appointed to watch over the world. As time passed they became infatuated with humans and abandoned Heaven. Now the Heavenly Council plans to send a great flood to wipe out the human race, unless Enoch can, presumably defeat the Grigori or bring them back to Heaven.

Enoch is able to fight with three different weapons. Each is effective against one but ineffective against the other so picking which to fight with is vital. I could obtain weapons from enemies, but had to purify them first. Unpurified weapons were weaker against Enoch’s foes. There weren’t a lot of enemies in the demo. Bouts happened against a few foes at a time, but I had to focus on one to be successful.

I was able to do many different combos, but the demo never explained how to pull these off. For the majority of the demo I mashed on the X button with mixed results. I died a couple of times, but learned I could prevent this if I mashed buttons when Enoch was going down. Instead of a health bar Enoch wore armor that would gradually fall off. In fact, El Shaddai didn’t utilize a heads-up display at all, which showcased the unique art style even better.

Utilizing an art style I’m not sure any other game has used before, El Shaddailooks unbelievable in motion. Besides the short side-scrolling section, it never seemed like there was a foreground and a background in the demo. Much of the surroundings didn’t have borders. There were pools of water and platforms, but the rest was one big palette. The coloring was very different too, nothing I can immediately compare it to.

I'm in love with the art style. Killer7 anyone?

The demo didn’t explain anything about the plot of El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron. With so little dialogue, I had to visit the website to grasp the plot. As long as they do a good job of presenting the story, I’m very interested in watching the game unfold. But playing the game might grow tedious. Hopefully the combat is explained in detail in the full game, allowing players to better grasp the ins and outs of battle.

The one thing they don’t need to work on is the art. El Shaddai is something visually astounding, unlike pretty much anything out there. The audio was interesting as well. The blend of eastern instrumentation and the organ created a spiritual soundtrack, matching the plot well. If there’s any reason to purchase El Shaddai, it’s the art style. The combat was fair, but I could imagine the game getting very hard, pending it’s not explained better.