Zoo Tycoon 2
By Diane S. Kendall
I recently read that the release of Halo 2, a rather brutal
shoot-em- up video game, prompted thousands of fans not to go
to work or school the day after the release, so intense was the
interest in the features of the new game. From what I read, video
game producers were crowing about the effect. They called
"halotoesis". As a parent and a reviewer, I must say that I found the
news a little scary on a variety of levels.
I havent read that thousands of fans stayed home just to
play the latest version Zoo Tycoon 2, but maybe they should
have. There certainly is a lot here to build up here rather than
shoot down and the enhanced 3-D graphics make it easy to zoom in
quite close to observe the animals, almost as if you were on a
safari. You can also click on any animal and find out what it's doing
at any given moment. Theres also a new and easy-to-reference
Zoopedia where players or just visitors can get all kinds of
entertaining and interesting facts about the 30 different animals
included in the simulation.
In my experience, Zoo Tycoon 2 was easy to get up and
running and Microsoft has kept the tutorial features so novices (ages
6 and up) can get up to speed without struggling to read all the help
features. One great way to see what the game is all about is to pick
Zoo Guest mode, in which you can walk around and enjoy the game like
a visitor on a day at the zoo. (This also is a super way to view what
your kids have built as they get their zoo in order so you can
encourage them to do more.) Of course Zookeeper mode, which allows
you to interact with the animals, is still available but much
improved this go around allowing you to feed, groom and play with the
animals to make sure their lives are enriched. There is also a new
Photo mode that lets you snap pictures of your favorite animals and
guests and share them with friends even online.
Of course the whole purpose of the game and the various challenges
built into the game scenarios in Campaign and Freeform modes is to
build a zoo that not only delights visitors but is self sustaining or
even profitable. Thats a real challenge these days out in the
real world where most zoos are going from being supported by local
governments to being out on their own and privately held. Even that
reality is mirrored in this simulation where guests can contribute
donations at each exhibit. Just like in the real world of zoos, the
more interesting the exhibit, the more the public tends to donate.
And heres a hint visitors like biomes: exhibits in which
the terrain, plants, and even the rocks look like the natural niche
of the animals in them.
Creating exhibits continues to be one of the pleasures of the
game. As in the previous version, players "paint" exhibits with
appropriate terrain and fill them with the right vegetation for each
animal. One improvement in this version of the game is that this is
now done more broadly with players not having to worry about every
square foot. I know some people really enjoyed selecting exactly what
each part of the exhibit would look like last time around, but
Im more into the animals so that didnt bother me. One
good thing is that you don't pay to change of terrain, which keeps
the costs of rebuilding an exhibit much more manageable.
By the way, in this new version exhibit fences no longer
disintegrate so animals only escape if you use the wrong kind of
fence for their species. Predators also are not as apt to kill other
animals although they do kill their own kind one of the
grosser parts of the game. Kids still enjoy watching zoo guests run
from escaped animals, though.
Of course there are some things that could be made better in the
game that expansion paks and downloads are sure to address. There are
only 30 different species of animals, many of them familiar from the
first version. There is a wide variety, but it still limits the zoo.
You also always start out with the same three animals moose,
peacocks and camels and have to get them settled in before you
can move on. That can be downright boring if you play a number of
One other alarming thing is the number of comments about system
requirements that seem to have sprung up online about this game. I
know my local zoo could not get it installed on their two-year-old
laptops while I got it to run just fine on a older desktop machine
running Windows 98. So make sure you check out the system
requirements on the Microsoft site before you buy the game and look
for patches and fixes.
If you go to the Microsoft site (listed below) you can also
download a demo version to try out or add content to existing
Bottom line: this is a great game for the whole family to enjoy
and kids interested in animals will particularly be pleased with the
content and opportunities to learn and interact with animals afforded
in this game. It is definitely worth the upgrade if you family is
already a fan of the first version.
Zoo Tycoon 2
View Software Reviews for Parents Archive