All the animals in the zoo are escaping and it’s up to you, as Volunteer Rope Holder to stop them by rope’n them back in. Zoo Lasso, the debut title by (New Zealand-based) Launching Pad Games, is a last longer, line drawing game of a different sort. Instead of using lines to direct the animals, you actually use your finger to draw circles around the animals to lasso them. This game’s got all your favorites zoo-dwellers including lions, zebras, monkeys, birds and even turtles.

When you draw a circle, it looks almost like a smoke ring that slowly dissipates shortly after a wrangling attempt. You’ll need to decide if you want to grab the animals one at a time or in groups. Groups must consist of one or more animals of the same species. You can capture more than one group at the same time and earn a combo bonus by drawing a figure-8, clover leaf, or other multi-sided shape around multiple groups. But be quick, more animals are arriving all the time and a different species may jump into your ring before you have it closed off, causing the lasso to fail. If things start getting really hectic, your best hope is for a turtle to wander on screen. Lasso the turtle and time will briefly stop, giving you a few moments to try to clear out the board. If too many animals are on the screen at the same time, you get overwhelmed and the game is over.

Zoo Lasso starts off slowly, but gets progressively faster and faster, with larger groups of animals constantly arriving. When you are about to lose, you are warned by an audible queue and the edges of the screen flashing red and then you really need to kick it into high gear and get rid of a lot of animals if you want to survive.

As you clear screens, you will move on to new levels, get promoted from Volunteer Rope Holder up to Master Rope Wrangler (and beyond), and progress through the four seasons. While the actual season changes do not seem to have any real effect on the game istelf, they are beautifully illustrated by the game’s graphics. As will be immediately evident in the screen shots and gameplay video, Launching Pad Games has done a wonderful job with the graphics, creating cute characters and an environment that will appeal to a broad audience, especially kids.

We found the game to be both fun and addicting. The player must weigh their options of when its most advantageous to go for multi-group combos to nail that high score, or when you just need to get roping and clear out the clutter. The game has 17 achievements as well as online leaderboards which are handled nicely by OpenFeint.

Now that we’ve told you what’s so great about Zoo Lasso, here are a few areas where we see some room for improvement… When we first started playing we were grateful for the slower ramp up speed so we could get used to the game and controls, but now that we’ve been playing it for some time, we’d love to have a mode where things would ramp up a bit faster. Also, sometimes when there were a lot of animals all on the screen at the same time, we noticed some significant sluggishness on our 2nd gen iPod Touch, which cleared up once we captured enough animals. We are not sure if 3GS users will see this issue as well, but we hope that the developer looks into this. Finally, the sheer number of additional animals dropped onto the screen when in the red danger zone time period sometimes it seemed almost unfair. The majority of the time when you find yourself in this situation, no matter how fast you rope, there is no real way out. One big mass of animals would come in, instantly ending the game.

Zoo Lasso is a fun and addictive last-longer style game, suitable for players of all ages and skill levels. Veteran players may find the game’s ramp up to be a bit slow, but once things speed up, they will enjoy the challenge. We recommend it for fans of the genre and anyone looking for a new casual game to kill some time or distract the kiddos.

Gameplay Video