Developer: Blue Fang Games
Release Date: November 9, 2004
Pre-order 'ZOO TYCOON 2': PC
It is really hard to say why Zoo Tycoon 2 is as fun as it is. I mean, it’s a game and having fun is kind of the whole point, but raise your hand if you have ever stopped to consider adding the position of “Zoo Manager” to your resume. Yes, in Zoo Tycoon 2 you once again reprise the role of the head honcho of your very own zoo and are free to construct your habitats and purchase your own menagerie of animals. Unlike the original title Zoo Tycoon 2 offers much more depth in nearly every category, and unlike the other “Tycoon” games Zoo Tycoon 2 is much more kid-friendly and easier to play.
Yes, I said the words “more depth” and “easier to play” in the same sentence and no, that wasn’t a mistake. One of the biggest things Zoo Tycoon has going for it is that the interface is incredibly well thought out, empowering the player to take an idea and apply it to their zoo that much easier. For instance, certain animals eat certain foods, utilize specific structures such as stables, and require specific habitats. Instead of having to go through each menu of items trying to find what will be suit your elephants, you can simply click on the elephant itself, click on “Zoo Keeper Suggestions”, and boom; every item and structure that you can currently have your elephant utilize is listed as well as what they eat and what habitat they are from. Constructing your zoo is done in a fashion similar to Maxis’ “The Sims 2”, placing object and fences on a grid and “painting” the habitat you want onto the landscape. There are now subclasses of habitats to use, ranging from deep and shallow water, to mountainous regions, forests, and various types of grassland and dirt in between.
As for the kid-friendly end of things, everything in Zoo Tycoon 2 is very straight-forward and there is an incredibly patient tutorial in place that new users can follow to get a feel for the game. Buttons are large, bulbous, and glossy like what you would find on a toy and pretty much all of the game’s text is written with a younger audience in mind. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying Zoon Tycoon 2 is an educational game, there are many places where the player can actually learn about their animals in the game, often without them knowing they are learning something at all. Parents can rest easy knowing that there is no violence in the game, even when you put a jaguar in a pen full of ostriches, and subjects such as animal birth are simply shown as a little baby antelope just popping into existence behind the momma antelope.
There are many aspects that make up a prosperous zoo, one of which is obviously profits. You can place a variety of shops and objects that people can use such as benches and fountains for visitors to spend money, rest, or learn about your animals. After all, if a visitor gets tired or angry and leaves the zoo his money leaves with him. You can tweak the prices of your shops from low, normal, or high prices to adjust your income, though charging too much or too little can either drive people away from the stand or cause it to lose money.
Zoo Tycoon 2 is a quantum leap in graphics quality over the original title, sporting a fully 3D engine that is not only used for looks but for additional game features. Everything from the animals to the zoo visitors is displayed in a very cartoony style, which is a good fit for the game’s intended audience. Bold use of color is a mainstay theme, as every object in the game is brightly colored though not to the point of annoyance. The new engine opens up a few new features that many longed for in the original, such as getting a close view of your animals themselves or rotating the camera view to get a better view of your zoo. Additionally the player can now enter a first person viewpoint from the perspective of a zookeeper, not only walking around and taking snapshots of your animals for photo safari challenges but also helping out around the zoo by refilling food and water troughs, healing sick animals and, well, cleaning up bird poop. Sound in the game is mainly made up of a constantly upbeat musical score punctuated by the sounds of your animals and visitors. In our preview build a bug was encountered that disabled the sound engine after the first few boots of the game, but given that it is a preview build one can fully expect such a problem to be nonexistent in the final version of the game.
Zoo Tycoon 2 comes out in a matter of days, and if the preview build is any consideration it is bound to be an entertaining Tycoon game fit for both older and younger gamers. The gameplay, interface, and information is all well thought out, and though managing an entire zoo can be a daunting task at times it is only due to the sheer volume of things going on rather than any real flaws in the way they are handled. The graphics and audio look and sound very cutesy, which is probably the only time I will use that word in a positive light and fits the title well. Overall, Zoo Tycoon 2 would be a great gift for the little zookeeper in the family, as it is not only entertaining but harmless and slightly educational at the same time. Look for Zoo Tycoon 2 to arrive on store shelves later this month.
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