It's fair to say that we get our fair share of games to review over here at Nintendo Life that don't necessarily appeal to our core audience of readers. It's just as fair to say that Treva Entertainment's clumsily named My Zoo Vet Practice 3D certainly falls into that category, definitely having a definitive (if somewhat niche) target audience in mind. Whether it be for their easy-going tasks or their cutesy aesthetics, caring for virtual animals is a genre of video game usually aimed at children. Unfortunately, both of these traits are lacking in My Zoo Vet Practice 3D, leaving the whole experience feeling rather banal and sure to leave both adults and children alike feeling unimpressed.
My Zoo Vet Practice 3D is billed as a simulation that allows the player to "care for animals you love so much in the biggest zoo you can imagine", allowing you to "examine elephants with the stethoscope, help giraffes with sore throats or perform dental treatments on lions". While each of these tasks can be performed as promised, the experience is far less enjoyable and exciting as some may imagine.
Before you can even begin treating the animals, you have to “learn" about the animal and its habitat. You do this not buy earning a degree in Animal Science or studying at a Veterinarian college, but by logging on to a nearby computer and purchasing a “book" - ample preparation for coming face to face with the likes of ferocious Lions, savage Tigers and hungry hungry Hippos. Upon buying a book, you're ready to go! Your first assignment is to “watch the chimps". Which is all you do. For around 10 seconds. Upon returning to the base you are told that you need to study up on the chimps. Probably something that should have been done before driving out to confront them. Your only sense of direction is the game's uninformative guide, who has an annoying habit of never looking you in the face when discussing your day's routine.
So after two days as the Zoo's new Vet you've spent €100 on two books and done very little engaging gameplay. This rather bland formula of browsing through the Zoo base's terminal, purchasing items from a bland menu and "learning" unfortunately takes up the majority of the gameplay. Amazingly, purchasing the books doesn't actually give you any visual description or even little facts about the animals. For a title clearly aimed at a younger audience, it would have been nice (and surely reasonable) to offer a few tidbits on the animal or its habitat, at least giving My Zoo Vet Practice 3D the distinction of being somewhat "educational". Unfortunately, that's not the case - and buying a textbook simply "unlocks" the ability to go to a certain terrain, or visit a specific species of animal. Frustratingly, the My Zoo Vet Practice 3D dictates when you can learn about specific animals.
After "learning" enough, you're finally given the opportunity to examine a sick animal and are presented with a rather pathetic looking creature on the bottom screen. Diagnosing and treating the sick animal consists of tapping icons and the animal over and over until you get a response. The icons (consisting of a hand, a magnifying glass, a stethoscope and a thermometer) have no noticeable differences and tell you such helpful information as: “the throat is sore" or “the ape has a fever". Once the assessment has been made, you are presented with another set of icons and instructions. “Disinfect the area", "inject the antibiotics" etc. Again, simply tapping on icons and the animal is about as involving as the treatment gets. To make the gameplay even more redundant, each of the processes are colour coded - corresponding to a form of treatment. For example, if an ape's body is orange you should tap the orange icon in order to bring up the antibiotics. While definitely being a title for children, any "difficulty" in performing these tasks is lacking. Animals can be treated incorrectly, and injected with the wrong medicine, but this simply causes them to run for their lives in a panic-stricken frenzy, before allowing you to try the process over again.
A game that is clearly aimed at very young children should be fairly self intuitive, requiring little explanation or understanding. For a 25 year old man to struggle to even get into the core gameplay, then, it's fairly apparent what sort of experience My Zoo Vet Practice 3D offers. The tasks assigned to you as a zoo veterinarian range from being weirdly convoluted and awkward, to astoundingly straightforward. The only real "challenge" present is maintaining your concentration long enough to cycle through screen after screen of purchasing options, buying various medicines or guides on the animals.
If you're hoping to see a wide array of the badly-animated animals, be prepared to pour hours into the My Zoo Vet Practice, as you're repeatedly taken back to what must be the sickest and loneliest chimp in the world. You cure him of tonsillitis only to find him with a “skin fungal infection" the following day and "rabies" the day after that (not an exaggeration). Perhaps the best dose of medicine this poor chimp needs is a dose of Intravenous Anaesthetic, however, this isn't an option given to your particular vet, and instead you must cure him over and over again before being given the opportunity to move on to a new species, and eventually an all new terrain.
Besides the uninspiring tasks at hand and the rather monotonous process involved in carrying them out, the overall experience suffers from a number of other faults. The controls are unnecessarily touchy feely - requiring your neon-clad character to be controlled by holding the stylus down on the touchscreen as they slowly walk in the desired direction, and your jeep must be driven back to the base by inelegantly dragging it through a maze-like road system. No process is smooth and the lack of fluidity only further results in the game feeling rushed rather than a lovingly crafted project.
Visually, My Zoo Practice 3D is simply unforgivable for a system with the capabilities of the 3DS, and would have looked poor even on the DS. Blurry visuals, icons that look like jpegs upscaled 10 times over and robotic animals all leave this looking like a game which has been stampeded by a herd of angry elephants - presumably because you injected them with the wrong medicine earlier. On rare occasions, the visuals are fairly presentable and utilise the top screen's stereoscopic 3D, but these moments are fleeting and often serve no purpose as most of the “action" takes place on the lower screen. My Zoo Vet Practice 3D offers some other features that utilise the 3DS's capabilities besides the occasional stereoscopic visuals. Nintendo Play Coins can be "exchanged for in-game currency", though why anyone should need (or want) to do so is an enigma in its own right. There is also a dedicated Miiverse community which (at the time of writing) is as barren and deserted as the Arctic Tundra (without the cuddly polar bears).
Ultimately, titles like My Zoo Vet Practice 3D should offer players an escape from realism, an opportunity to perform tasks many can only dream of. Want to care for exotic animals without committing time and money into receiving the necessary qualifications? Then playing a video game should be the suitable compromise. Instead, My Zoo Vet Practice 3D makes the process as boring and drawn out as possible. Instead of being an exciting taster for younger audiences - intrigued by the prospect of spending a career caring for animals - My Zoo Vet Practice 3D is more likely to put off children entirely. You're bound to have more of an exhilarating, hands-on experience with animals down at the local duck pond.
It's difficult to review My Zoo Vet Practice 3D as a form of “entertainment", as there really isn't anything remotely entertaining to be found while playing. Ropey controls, cheap visuals and outright bland mechanics plague the title throughout. My Zoo Vet Practice 3D isn't unplayable - it's simply unenjoyable, and at a inexplicably inflated price of £24.99 in the UK at the time of writing (compared to a mere $4.99 in the US), it's immensely overpriced. Regardless of price, though, this is a Zoo you shouldn't bother visiting.