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Zoo Tycoon 2

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Simulation
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Blue Fang


PC Preview - 'Zoo Tycoon 2'

by Mark Crump on May 28, 2004 @ 4:30 a.m. PDT

Genre : Simulation
Developer: Blue Fang Games
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: September 21, 2004

Zoo Tycoon 2 builds on the success of the first title, but has put in design features that change the focus from managing a business to actually managing a zoo. In the original game, most of the park’s revenue came from concessions, but in this release your money will come from donations – the happier your animals are, the happier your customers will be, and the more they’ll drop in the little collection boxes.

Zoo Tycoon 2 breaks out of the fence-grid that plagues most animal park themed games. Before, even if you had dug a deep pit the animal couldn’t scale, the game still wanted you to put a fence around it. With Zoo Tycoon 2, that restriction is limited and the game understands when an animal doesn’t need additional restraints. This gets you away from the grid by allowing you to use the freeform terrain tools to create the enclosure. The pathways, however, will still need to be on some sort of a grid, so you won’t be able to use the tools to create wandering paths. You can set up viewing areas also, either close up outcroppings into the animals area, or telescope locations across a divide. This will affect both the animal and patron’s happiness, so the animal won’t feel as confined if only a few patrons are looking at them from the outcropping, while the rest of the population is happy they can view it from a distance.

The game also introduces a new mode called Zoo Keeper. This will allow you to bring the game to a deeper level by allowing you to actually care for the animals by feeding, bathing and yep, even picking up poop. You don’t need to get that detailed though, this mode is optional and not required to complete any of the 18 scenarios.

What was also impressive is the fact that you won’t be restricted to the 3rd person isometric view like most tycoon games. Zoo Tycoon 2 has a new view called “Patron View” that allows you to walk through the park in first person view, allowing you to see what your patrons can see. This way when a patron complains that their views are restricted, you can get right in, see what’s blocking their view and fix the problem. What you can’t do, though, is click on a random patron to see what they are doing; you’ll be moving around the park as yourself.

The game also has a snapshot feature that lets you take screenshots and create in-game photo albums to share with others- even on the Internet as you’ll be able to create web sites based off your albums.

The new graphics engine is quite impressive and renders the terrain and animals wonderfully. The developer giving the demonstration was a big fan of waterfalls, which also did an excellent job at showing off the particle effects. The one thing the engine doesn’t allow you do is create bridges, but the devs showed off the ability to trick the game into creating bridges, so while you can’t create a true bridge over some creatures, you’ll at least be able to create a visual bridge over some water.

Microsoft has also linked all the animals to it’s Encarta encyclopedia, so you’ll be able to view some fairly detailed information about the animals – whether it’s herd-based or not, what food it prefers, what actions make it skittish, etc.

The game is on track for a holiday ’04 release, and in addition to being a fun title for the adults, it looks like a great way to educate your kids about animals under the guise of a game.

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