Have you ever wanted to raise lions, tigers and bears (oh my)? Maybe you wanted to raise lemurs, chimpanzees and antelope too? Face it; you wanted to own a zoo. Frontier Developments has a game for you. It’s called Zoo Tycoon. Get ready to learn all aspects of running a zoo, from managing attendance to cleaning up after the animals. Let's get to it, just watch were you step.
There is no unified story in Zoo Tycoon. In the Campaign and Challenge modes you are given a set of goals at different zoos around the world. The Challenge mode gives you a certain amount of money and a time limit to accomplish those goals. The Freeform mode lets you build your zoo without any restrictions.
Controls and Gameplay
Zoo Tycoon is a simulation game that lets you play in two different ways and from two different perspectives. The perspectives, which you can swap between easily, are an overhead Tycoon view or an on-the- ground view in third person. The Tycoon view is your quickest way to get around the zoo and inspect various parts, but it's also fairly impersonal. The ground view is slower, but it allows you to get up close to the exhibits, animals, and visitors. I found myself swapping between the two quite often, depending on the task I had at hand.
You also have two ways of controlling Zoo Tycoon, either with the regular controller or with Kinect. Both work well, the Kinect on the Xbox One version surprisingly well. Kinect controls on the 360 can be a little hit and miss, but the Kinect 2.0 controls on the Xbox One were very tight, even recognizing when I turned my hand around and opened it. As well as the Kinect worked, I still tended to stick to the controller. A creature of habit, I guess.
Another difference between the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One versions is the fact the Xbox One version has multiplayer modes. You and up to three of your friends can cooperatively run a zoo.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics for Zoo Tycoon fall into two categories; realistic and hyper-realistic. The animals all fall into the realistic style, looking and acting much like they would in real life. The people visiting your zoo, zoo staff, and yourself all push a little way into the hyper-realistic look. Proportions are on the odd side, with heads slightly bigger than the norm, but it's not a distracting look and it even slides toward a kid-friendly cartoonish look. The Xbox 360 version follows the same graphics path, but it’s just not as crisp and clean as its beefier brother the Xbox One.
The audio sounds like it should. I'm not an expert on what each animal should sound like, but they seem appropriate. The background noise of the hustle and bustle of a busy zoo sounds like it should too.
Zoo Tycoon is a sneaky game. What you think would be just a straight simulation game turns out to be a lot more. It is still simple enough that most kids should be able to pick up how to play it and have fun, but along the way they may learn things they didn’t know. The game provides information about each animal, such as habits, likes and dislikes, etc. Zoo Tycoon is very menu-driven, which might be a slight turn off for some. Even simple tasks like placing trees can get tiresome when you have to go through a series of menus for each tree.
It is also a game that you can find yourself suddenly hours into wondering where the time went. I sat down one night, really not in the mood to play any game, and started it up. The next thing I knew, I was about four hours into a Challenge that I had finished in an hour, but I kept expanding and grooming the zoo as new goals would pop up.
Another note of difference between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One versions – in addition to the graphics and a multiplayer function – is the number of animals. The Xbox 360 version has 65 out of the 101 animals available on the Xbox One player.
Zoo Tycoon is fun, the ability to switch between the Tycoon/sim mode down to an "on the ground feeding by hand" zoo-keeper keeps it moving and entertaining. I found myself really liking the game. I give Zoo Tycoon a 4 out of 5 rating.
Zoo Tycoon is rated E for Everyone by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).
Zoo Tycoon is available now for Xbox 360 and Xbox One. For more information see the Zoo Tycoon web site.