Every Atari 7800 Game Reviewed
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5.0 Perfect
4.5 Excellent
4.0 Very Good
3.5 Good
3.0 Fair
2.5 Weak
2.0 Poor
1.5 Bad
1.0 Terrible
0.5 Atrocious
0.0 Your Mom

Silverback Reviews

7800 Rank: Unranked

Genre: Action

Awards: None
In the Words of Joe Exotic, "I am Never Gonna Financially Recover From This..." Pros: Easier to control than the arcade. Addicitive gameplay
Cons: Buggy. Devoid of stellar arcade sound effects. Weird collision detection
How Do Damsels in Distress ALWAYS End Up in Places Like This?
Overview: The fine folks over at Video 61 have been on a roll lately with their original 7800 (and other systems') releases. Putt 18 Miniature Golf was a brilliantly fun game, even if it looked a bit strange...
and Venture 7800 was a solid port of a retro classic, and the extra levels really brought it to the next level. Going for the hat trick with Animal Keeper, they ported their Atari 8 bit and 5200 reimagining of Zoo Keeper to the Prosystem. For those that don't know, Zoo Keeper was an odd 1983 arcade game that featured unique gameplay, strange jumping mechanics and frenetic action. You run circles (or rectangles if you will) around a zoo barricade, trying to repair barriers against an insane frenzy of escaping animals who want freedom and you for lunch! This game feels like you are the bad guy, especially if you are an animal lover. I wouldn't call this game a straight arcade port of Zoo Keeper, because there are quite a few differences.

Graphics: Zoo Keeper never won any beauty pageants, and this game is no prize either, but it resembles Zoo Keeper pretty nicely. The graphics on most stages consist of a rectanglar, multi layered, box-wall that varies in color and design from stage to stage, a handful of different animals, and your little Zoologist sprite running along the edges, trying to rebuild the walls. The animals have a ton of variety; from spiders and worms, to rhinos and elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, rabbits, and just about everything in between. Not only do the animals look pretty good but they seem to act different and vary in speed from one another as well. You can sometimes get into a bonus game every 5 levels that maintains most of the sprites from the main game, but switches things into a sort of platformer. The graphics and animation on these levels just don't fit as good as in the main game. Collision detection is all over the place in Animal Keeper, but its downright bizarre on these levels. But to be honest, the arcade game was zany like that, too.

Sound: The sound isn't great. Funkmaster V told me how the chaotic and out of place sound effects were kind of a favorite memory of his from the arcade game. Video 61 tries to replicate that vibe, but it just sounds like typical Atari 2600 and 7800 stuff we've heard before. The "machine-gun" running sound is sorely missed. You also get a little ditty that plays on the menu and at intermissions... along with jumping and collision sound effects. My favorite is the sound of the siren as the ambulance comes to pick you up after you've been mauled by an animal. But even that isn't great, but the whole idea is fun and worth a chuckle the first time or two you see it.

Gameplay: Your goal in Animal Keeper is to keep as many animals as you can inside the walls when the timer runs out. Your Zoologist will run along the edges of the wall, magically rebuilding the broken parts with his magic feet as he goes. The animals within the walls will be breaking it down just as fast as you can fix it, in an attempt to escape and have a nice man- meat meal. Random, magical nets are your only power up, and when you finally grab one, touching an animal with it sends it back inside the walls. CRIME DOESN'T PAY! Animal Keeper is very addictive, and before you know it you've sunk several hours into it and missed your review deadline (sorry Funk). It is slower than Zoo Keeper, which I honestly prefer. AK does not attempt to follow the level design of ZK, and the platforming levels are vastly different. Zoo Keeper's bonus levels are like that terrible jumping mini game from Swordquest Earthworld (Atari 2600), and Animal Keeper's is more like a very basic, single screen Lode Runner (Amiga, Atari XE). To be honest, both are the worst parts of their respective games. But for as much fun as the simple gameplay of the main game is, there are some technical flaws I can't ignore. For one, if you lose all of your lives and choose to continue from where you left off at the menu, the bonus levels go away perminately. This may be a good thing if your not a fan of them, however. The whole game can feel like it's moments from crashing completely, it's jittery and glitchy, although the game has never crashed on me. The screen flashes like crazy as the action suffers slowdown, and then the animals will start behaving oddly. They appear as though they are inside the cage but sudenly snap back to the perimeter unexpectedly. And getting stuck on corners is going to happen. But if you take the good with the bad, I've found that the fun and addictive gameplay trump these issues overall (plus these issues are fairly infrequent).

Interpretation: This game is inspired by Zoo Keeper but is not a straight port. For some, this might be a bad thing, but for the laid back gamer, they will appreciate the pace. Different strategies can be employed as many unexpected events can happen outside of the walls. Even at a slower gameplay speed, its more intense than you might think! You'll never have more than 8 animals in a level, but trust me, that's plenty to keep you busy. The bonus levels are where Animal Keeper drops the ball, but since they don't load half the time it's really a non-issue. I think Video 61 did a good job of keeping things familiar and different all at the same time, which isn't always easy to do.

Value: This game has provided me with a lot of fun and challenge over this last week. I think most people who purchase Atari 7800 homebrews will get their money's worth. You can select your starting level like Food Fight (Atari 7800) up to level 9, and also different pick jump mechanics. One selection plays like the arcade, where you jump over animals defensively for points. The other option kinda changes the game into a Mario flava, where pouncing on an animal's back sends in back to the center. This eliminates the need for a net and is quite a great game variation- although the jump mechanics in the game are Kentucky windish at best.

Overall: Technically, I think this is the worst of Video 61's latest trilogy of games (Venture, Putt18 and Animal Keeper). If I didn't know any better I'd say it got rushed out the door before the programming could get refined. But luckily for them, this game is just so much fun that I can forgive its flaws. For that reason, it's probably my most recommended game out of Video 61's 7800 trilogy of games. Animal Keeper might not be as crazy and fast as Zoo Keeper, but I think it is more accessible. If your interested in the slightest, I say go ahead and pick up a copy. Just beware the 7 deadly rabbits...

Additional Info:
I would like to take this time to thank Video 61 for allowing the use of thier screenshots for this review. You can purchase this game at www.AtariSales.com.

This review was graciously provided by Silverback.