While there are often foolish debates about which is the best game ever, really everyone knows the true answer: Zookeeper. Originally a browser game, its perfect form appeared on the Nintendo DS in 2004 (the best people imported it from Japan), before finding its way to cellphones in 2011. Beyond a 2012 Japan-only 3DS release, then the franchise just cruelly vanished for the last decade. But it’s back! And alongside its classic match-3 challenges, Zookeeper World is going to let you build a bloody zoo.
Where the original versions of Zookeeper have been entirely focused around its match-3 gaming, the freshly announced Zookeeper World is embellishing on the format, not just with a bunch of newly shaped play areas, but also the gathering of coins with which you can expand and customize your very own zoo. The press release explains that the cuter and more appealing your zoo, the more visitors you’ll attract, suggesting this is more than just a cosmetic bonus—perhaps a whole other game mode.
“As you complete requests from these visitors as well as the Boss, your zoo rank will increase. Before long, you’ll be expanding and customizing your zoo with various designs and decorations! You just might come across a family of ducks or a calico cat, or even cruise around in a UFO! With endless ways to spice things up, there’s never a dull moment as a zookeeper!”
This will involve trying to collect all the animal types, and apparently upgrading them into “cosplay animals”.
It’s hard to overstate just how good Zookeeper was. Just by dint of being a match-3 puzzler, people are too quick to dismiss it as another Bejeweled clone or worse, something akin to Candy Crush. In fact, not only is it by orders of magnitude better than either, it did such a good job of being better than Bejeweled that PopCap ended up changing how their series worked after its release.
The key difference, and just trust me if you think this sounds minor, was that it allowed you to continue matching lines of three or more icons while the screen was cascading from the disappearance of the last. Going back to anything pre-Bejeweled 3 became impossible after that. It redefined how the entire genre should be experienced. And it did it all while an angry Japanese zookeeper yelled barely translated insults at you every time you failed.
The DS was the perfect home for it. It had already appeared on the GBA, and of course can still be bought for mobiles, but it was the stylus on the touchscreen that allowed for such high-speed precision. As someone I’m happy to tell you is mostly mediocre at twitch gaming, Zookeeper was my paradise, and I ended up getting one of the top 10 highest scores in the world at its core mode. I played that game a lot.
I am, as a result, rather miffed by the Apple Arcade exclusivity. By my measure (all who sign up to their deals are NDAd up the wazoo), those mobile exclusives tend to last a brutal two years, so it’s going to be Space Year 2023 before I can play this in my Android-driven life.
Apple has yet to give a specific release date, but Touch Arcade reports that metadata suggests September 10.