IGN Review of Zoo Vet: Endangered Animals
There are plenty of puppies and kittens. Lots of rabbits, and hamsters, and guinea pigs. And goodness knows there are more than enough horses to go around. But the over-representation of those most common domestic animals in DS virtual pet designs has at least encouraged some developers to get more creative, focusing their own games on different sets of digital creatures -- like Zoo Vet: Endangered Animals. Because though you might have played plenty of veterinarian sims over the past few years, chances are you haven't seen many with as wide a variety of potential patients as this one has.
There are penguins and pandas. Elephants and eagles. Lions, tigers and bears, and even a crocodile for good measure. Zoo Vet casts you as a new animal doctor recruited to practice veterinary medicine in a diverse nature preserve filled with exotic endangered creatures, with no normal household dogs or cats in sight. Every time you treat an animal, you'll be in store for an experience more similar to something you'd see on the Discovery Channel than anything you'd find in your local pet store.
That diversity is Zoo Vet's strength, as it's more fun to treat the injuries and illnesses of a variety of animals instead of seeing the same old pets on parade again and again. The treatment sequences are solid, too, as the game clearly and concisely directs you with what to do and when (with an optional hint system). You can do your best to diagnose and treat an animal on your own, but if you find yourself lost and don't know what step to take next, pressing the X Button will give you precise instruction.
Examples of cases that come before you include cuts and bruises that animals have sustained in fights or by accident, inflammations and infections brought on by something they've eaten, and even unexpected pregnancy. You'll begin each examination by taking the creature's vitals with a stethoscope, using a magnifying glass to get a closer look at the area of the animal's body that seems to be the problem, and then continuing on through a sequence of using tools and medicines appropriate to the case at hand.
If you're looking at a bear with a gash on his leg, you'll have to shave the fur around the wound, disinfect the spot and suture it up. If you're seeing an otter with an inflammation of its tail, you might be called to rub in some topical ointment. And so on and so forth.
Each instrument calls you to interact with the touch screen in some small way, like drawing a zig-zag pattern on the screen when stitching up a wound or making a pushing motion to inject fluids with the medical syringe. But it's here where Zoo Vets starts to unravel a bit -- its stylus-to-touch-screen recognition is often inconsistent.
It's often difficult to determine exactly where you're supposed to touch on the screen to activate the next step in the examination procedure, meaning you'll frequently have to poke and prod at different places at random before you finally stumble across the right spot. A clearer set of visual cues could have helped, but while they sometimes appear, they don't always.
It's also often troublesome to navigate around Zoo Vets as a whole, as its interface seems pieced together -- it's part touch screen, part face buttons. It's almost as if the game were originally intended to be played without the touch screen at all, but then that pursuit was abandoned partway through. So large icons on the screen will ask you to press A or B or whatever face button, but then you'll hit a roadblock where buttons will stop working and you'll have to switch back over to the stylus to continue.
The presentation woes then end up infecting Zoo Vet's selection of mini-games, which seem mostly tacked on and unrefined. The games included small designs like throwing fish to hungry penguins (seen in the screenshot above), but the shallow depth and poor touch screen control of each one make them brief diversions at best. Players will probably only spend a very short while exploring them before moving back to the real focus of the game, the vet exams and treatments.
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