ZooKeeper. (computer game and educational software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Carol Ellison
Kids love animals, and Davidson's Zookeeper puts that natural affection to work in a children's game that makes a fun-filled statement about our environment. The game keeps players hurrying from one animal's home to another to foil the efforts of troublemakers who are wrecking the zoo and making it impossible for the scientists there to leave long enough to release an animal back to the wild.
As a player, you begin as a lowly cage cleaner who must take care of the zoo's more than 50 different animals. You must capture the troublemakers who are feeding the beasts the wrong food, littering their habitats, ruining the climate, and upsetting the balance of nature. With every bad deed you right and every troublemaker you catch, Funk E. Monkey pops in to give you little rewards--a passport, sunglasses, even a teddy bear--that you can take along on your ultimate safari to release the animal, once you're seen that the zoo is secure.
Players must not only catch the hoodlums, but they must also clean up the mess, feed animals the appropriate food, and restore the proper climate and habitat. It's not an easy job. It's simple enough to know not to throw raw steak to the giraffes, but should you give those long-necked creatures bark, twigs, sprouts, or all or any combination of the above? And what sort of temperature and humidity should you set to ensure their comfort? Zookeeper supports all major sound cards, and the game helps you with your choices by providing audible clues. If you select the right food, for instance, a voice calls out "yum!" Select the wrong one, and you hear "blech." There are also animated cartoon characters--the aforementioned Funk E. Monkey and Zoonie the Robot--standing by to give you hints when the going gets tough. Do your job well, and you work your way up to Zoo Master.
ZooKeeper not only highlights the needs for living animals but also calls attention to extinctions. As children track animals through the zoo, they find unidentified footprints that lead to glades bearing plagues that identify extinct animals and tell what happened to them. Lovely scanned-photo images of animals--from the television show "ZooLife with Jack Hanna" (Jack Hanna is the director of the Columbus Zoo) and from ZooLife magazine--show the animals as they appear in the wild. Register the product, and Davidson will donate $1 to the William Holden Wildlife Foundation.
The game boasts a hefty hardware requirement that may make it unsuitable for some users. It comes on ten disks. Count 'em, ten. And it consumes a 71/2MB space on your hard disk. Installation takes 10 to 30 minutes, depending on your setup. Installing it for a printer with a Sound Blaster Pro, as I did, took the full half-hour. And don't think of running it if your PC has less than 64OK of memory or anything less than a high-resolution VGA video system.
Although ZooKeeper is rated for ages 6-11, it isn't an easy game to play. The game's many clues and hints help. But it's still a good idea to keep an encyclopedia or children's animal book around so the kids can look things up. A fine memory for facts you picked up from your last outing to the zoo will also help.