Zoo Vet: Endangered Animals
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-01-17 Nintendo DS Simulation E10 (Everyone 10+) Nintendo / Legacy Interactive

Vet games are definitely aimed at a niche audience, and I have to say, I've played my share (six or seven, if memory doesn't fail me). Almost all of them were for PC, with the exception of Pet Pals for the Wii. And all of them are seem to follow the same gameplay formula.

Zoo Vet: Endangered Animals, initially released for PC, is now slightly transformed to fit the capabilities of the DS. For those not familiar with the game, in Zoo Vet you play as a veterinarian in charge of the health and well-being of a number of animals. From penguins to pandas, bears, eagles, lions and crocodiles, it is your job to nurse the animals of this natural reserve back to health and feed them as necessary.

Starting with the basics, you find yourself in the office. Here you can check out a few things:
- the library, which contains a photo album with information about the animals you have treated;
- the computer, where you can play games such as memory, trivia, jigsaw, or other mini-games with the animals (dental care, feeding penguins, checking for fleas);
- the map, where you can see which animals need treatment or feeding;
- the office door, used to take you back to the main menu.

Treating the animals is done exactly as in the PC versions, with a few little differences. While on the PC you use the mouse, here you use the stylus, but you're not limited to tapping this and that.

For example, you begin and examination by using the stethoscope on the animal's chest, and tapping the heartbeats in rhythm with the graph. The magnifying class works like a connect the dots task. To draw blood you drag the stylus outwards from the body, then push the plunger to place the blood into a test tube, and finally spin the centrifuge to complete the blood test. Incisions and stitches are very similar to the procedure in Trauma Center. In the event of a fracture, you shave and clean the wound, use the scalpel to make an incision, repair the bone by dragging one piece onto another, then stitch in a zig-zag motion and cover the wound with a bandage.

The 30 cases range from broken bones to cuts and bruises, infections, inflammations and even pregnancy. Diagnosis is done by always using a series of appropriate tools and finally medicine or surgery to take care of the problem.

Nothing is overly complicated, as the game tells you step by step what needs to be done by using the top screen as your guide. Depending on the difficulty mode you are playing in (Easy or Normal) there will be less hints for you. Pressing X will give you a hint when you feel stuck.

While the micro-games for the tools seemed to work fine, I had trouble with the stylus when zooming in to the area I wanted. Many times I ended up zooming to a completely different part of the animal body, back and forth in a loop. It seems like there was little margin of error for this procedure.

As for the animal care mini-games that you can access through the computer, two of them worked fine but I had the most trouble with dental care. While throwing fish at penguins was mildly entertaining and relied on aiming and flicking a fish with the stylus from the touch screen to the top screen, and even if blowing on the microphone to spread the fur to find fleas was easy enough (although it left me dizzy), the dental care game seemed nearly impossible to play. You have all these bacteria of different colors in the animal's teeth, and the goal is to brush them off and clean the teeth. But it's like you can never brush fast enough, since more and more germs appear and keep changing colors to the toughest ones to get rid of.

While on the zoo map, there are also animals that need to be fed. This seemed to me a bit like filler, since all you do is drag to the food bowl the amounts and types of food mentioned on the top screen. It would have been more entertaining to make some kind of mini-game out of this activity instead of just tapping an item and dragging it to the bowl.

However, the focus of the game is clearly in the examination and treatment process, as it has been in the PC versions.

As for the technical aspect, the presentation is quite nice. Although the cutscenes and examination screens are composed of a series of still images, I find that this works as it did for the PC. More recently, I discovered that the 3D process in the Wii wasn't as successful, so I didn't mind the 2D plane at all.

There is no voice acting, which means plenty of text to read, but the music is quite pleasant and comes through crystal clear, which is always a plus. There isn't much as far as animal sounds, though.

As a nitpick, I found that the mini-games on the computer should have been labeled. All you get is the classification "Office Games" and "Outdoor Games", but if you tap any of the icons there is no description on the top screen, and it launches the game right away.

Still, I enjoyed my handheld veterinarian experience, and a lot more than the one I had on the Wii. With a few tweaks here and there and more variety in the mini-games, I'm sure a future handheld installment of Zoo Vet will certainly do well.

Special thanks to Lauren B. Tascan and Legacy Interactive for providing a copy of this title.