Review: Zoo Tycoon
So you fancy yourself as a bit of a zoo keeper eh? Fancy building your own zoo from the ground up with all of your favourite animals and some you don’t really care about? Well, I have good news for you, Zoo Tycoon is here and now available on your Xbox 360 and Xbox One. For the purpose of this review we played the Xbox One version.
There’s three game modes to plow your way through, Campaign, Freemode or the Challenge mode. For Campaign you have to pick a level, which will throw you into a zoo that’s already up and running. Your task then is to complete certain objectives, such as, build 10 decorations or build a large grasslands exhibit. Once you’ve completed these challenges that’s it, the level is over, you can then move onto the next one and take on the next stack of challenges.
Freemode is exactly how it sounds, a free mode. You’ve got unlimited funds and you can just go crazy and build whatever you like. However, some things are still restricted by your zoo fame, which goes up as you build exhibits, adopt animals and so on. As you can imagine this goes up pretty quick when you have unlimited money, so you should unlock everything within no time – you’re then free to unlock your inner zoo and build until your heart’s content, sort of.
The main problem I have with Zoo Tycoon is that the area they give you to build in is huge, bigger than you’d probably ever want to fill. However, the huge size of the place is irrelevant as the game has a fairly small zoo limit, there I was building away and the game just stopped me from building anything, saying I’d hit the zoo limit. My zoo had filled about one eighth of the available land, which was disappointing as I was expecting to be able to fill that bad boy out.
The main chunk of your gameplay will probably come from the Challenge mode, this is where you’re given an empty of plot of land and limited funds so it offers the greatest challenge of the three modes. Whilst playing you’ll be given the occasional challenge which in turn will pay out some extra cash should you complete it, but for the most part you’re left to your own devices to build the zoo of your dreams.
When you start out you’ll have a few different exhibits you can build and a few animals you can adopt. When you build up your zoo fame you’ll get the option to research more exhibits and animals, this will then unlock them for you to be able to use. There’s a handful of exhibits and small, medium and large versions of each, there is however, loads of animals to choose from. There’s a few species which are then split into sub-species, for example there’s Bengal Tigers, Siberian Tigers, Malayan Tigers and so on. You can also place mini exhibits where you can adopt Lemurs, Snakes and other smaller animals.
On top of animal exhibits you can also build facilities such as a breeding centre for encouraging your animals to get down and dirty, a janitors station for keeping everything in tip top shape, a zoo keeper station to hire some people to help keep food levels topped up and toilets for, well, you know. There’s also some concession stands so that your patrons can get some chow, burgers, coffee, ice cream and other foods, I’m sure I don’t need to list them all here. Finally there’s entertainment stands where customers can buy balloons, costumes or watch a zoo keeper play with their lemur. Also, to keep your zoo looking fresh you can add all sorts of decorations, which include some gigantic animal related topiary, I don’t think it’s even possible to grow a bush as big as these things.
There’s some Kinect functionality thrown into the mix as well, the majority of which is used to interact with the animals. If you build an interaction station then you can either use the controller or the Kinect to make your animal happy. There are three to choose from, feeding, washing and sensory enrichment. Washing is a weird one as you’re basically spraying animals with hoses, I can’t imagine a tiger is very happy about being sprayed with a hose but there we are. For sensory enrichment you can strike poses and pull faces, the animal will then match them. As you can probably guess this only really works with the chimps. The Kinect stuff is okay, it seems a bit flaky at times and doesn’t really add much to the gameplay. The best Kinect feature is if you’re driving in the buggy you can say “Beep Beep” and it’ll beep the horn, which is more entertaining than it sounds.
Zoo Tycoon is a decent launch title for the Xbox One, it looks good, controls well and offers a different pace to the other titles. It’s something you can just sit down and relax with, if you have kids then it’s perfect for them. The zoo limit is a shame and it doesn’t really do anything that’ll blow your socks off but if you like tycoon games or titles like Sim City then you’ll love creating your own little zootopia.