Zoo Tycoon

Posted On: 11/18/2013  Publisher: Microsoft Studios

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Have you ever dreamed of working in a zoo? What about running the whole show at the zoo? Well, if thatís a yes then you are in luck because Zoo Tycoon allows you to be the person that makes all the decision creating the perfect zoo for yourself as well as your visitors. Zoo Tycoon is a management game similar to Sim City in which youíll have to perform all sorts of tasks to keep your zoo running and the visitors coming. Many folks will remember this game from the PC and the last version to be released was in 2004. Well now it has returned to both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One with all new gameplay and interactions.

Zoo Tycoon is one of those games that is accessible to gamers of all ages. You can play the game as technical or simple as you would like. The tutorials are the perfect for those just getting familiar with the game or for those that need to familiarize themselves with the console controls. The game does have a little bit of resemblance to Kinectimals at times with cute animals making adorable faces. This makes sense since the game is being developed by Frontier Development but it also pays homage to the original PC titles from a decade ago. I am going to try to generalize as much as I can in this review so it doesnít turn out to be 10,000 words long. Yes, that is how much stuff is in this game.

Now, we played this on the Xbox 360 and I will tell you right now the game looked fantastic. So I can imagine how good it will look on the Xbox One and weíll definitely be checking it out. Anyhow, the game is full of cuteness which attracts the younger audience, but if you watch the animals they all seem to move just as in real life. Animal reactions, movements and habits are captured perfectly in this game. The menu system is easy to use and there are plenty of areas where you can find help whether is the Zoopedia or checking out details on your zoo at the main gate. As a whole there is not a ton of difficulty in this game and there are many option buried in the menus that you'll have to discover on your own. You'll waste hours upon hours of time on this game and you'll never really fail. For some that could get boring, but I personally enjoyed the game.

 
 

Microsoft and Frontier have stated that the game has been developed primarily for the Xbox One and the Xbox 360 version is a dumbed down version. This really should not surprise anyone as the 360 is not capable of rendering a game developed for the Xbox One. So you wonít get all the animals that youíll see in the Xbox One version, zoo sizes are much smaller and the game is limited to offline single player. But donít let this scare you as itís still a fun game for the Xbox 360 and if you do not have plans on getting an Xbox One anytime soon then you shouldnít be concerned. There are still plenty of animals, tasks and challenges on the Xbox 360 version.

The game has been revamped for the console and using a controller. You can controller everything by moving a target around the screen and hovering over different items. Different options will appear as you hover over different things. There is even voice control for those of you that have Kinect hooked up and it works pretty good. There is so much to do in this game but its laid out perfectly on the screen with notifications, easy to access menus and multiple views of your zoo.

For all the business moguls out there, this game should be right up your alley. You can adjust prices, hire staff, set advertising campaigns and a whole lot more. Everything you need to run a successful business is in the game and youíll have plenty of statistical tracking to look at to see where you need to focus your attention. But if you are looking to just have some fun taking care of the animals and creating a zoo full of variety then this game is for you as well.

 
 

Ok, so letís go over some of the gameplay elements and modes you can expect to encounter. At the main menu you have the option to Continue, Play, or Load A Zoo. Continuing will start you out in wherever you left off when you last played. You can choose to load a game save if you like and of course you can select the Play option which gives you access to Training, Freeform, Challenge and Campaign modes. I highly suggest checking out the training mode as itíll get you familiar with the controls and how to play the game. Freeform mode is basically a big sandbox for you to play in without the hassle of worrying about money. Challenge mode starts you out with limited funds and places the responsibility on you to create a successful zoo. And finally, Campaign mode gives you fifteen scenario-based zoos in six categories. Youíll be rewarded with unique items to be used in Challenge and Freeform modes for completing each scenario.

As a the primary Zoo Keeper itís your responsibility to bring in animals, create habitats, hire staff, and complete regular challenges all while keeping your guests happy. Your guests, foundations, and even mystery folks will suggest things in order to make your zoo better and allow you to earn fame. Youíll unlock new animals, habitats and decorations for use in your zoos which will help you level up in fame. You can use a third person perspective to really get intimate with your animals and the zoo or you can choose to consistently stay in Tycoon view which is an overhead that makes placing items, fixing things and getting a broad overview of the zoo much easier.

Other than the initial items that are stock for the zoo mostly everything needs to be researched before it can be unlocked for use. This will cost you a sum of money and a little bit of time, but as you research new habitats you will unlock new animals as well. So whenever you get a chance be sure to do lots of research which simply consists of pressing a button on the item you want to use. You can also research a skills tree which in turn will give you more guests, decrease expenses and make more money for your zoo. There are several categories in the skill tree, so be sure to research everything for the perfect zoo in the end.

 
 

This game has so much to offer even on the Xbox 360 and youíll spend hours upon hours playing it. The Notification and challenge system works extremely well in the hub and allows you to maintain all aspects of your zoo and also serves as a reminder for things you need to accomplish. I love the breeding system as well and the opportunity to breed rare variants of animals is a plus. It reminds me of Viva Pinata in that respect which was another game I enjoyed immensely. Now, it took a while for me to be able to breed any animals as you have to have them completely happy and it helps to increae your breeding research as well as assign a breeder to the exhibit. But when you get your first baby animal it'll be all worth it.

The only down side to this game is really the size restrictions. In my very first zoo I was going crazy adding all sorts of animals and exhibits. I was also sure to add in plenty of guest services as well as any zoo should have. Unfortunately, before I even got close to filling up the square footage allowed for the zoo size I was told the zoo had maxed out. So in order to continue I needed to remove things. So be sure you lay your zoo out in a wide open fashion to avoid this problem. I am sure if you get into it as much as I was that youíll still hit the size limit, but thatís ok. You can replace smaller exhibits and animals, which you can release into the wild if they are level 15. The only other issue I had was one of the zoos that I had saved would not load properly which kind of upset me as it was a pretty darn good zoo. The game also compeltely froze on me when I was trying to save the game with a zoo at full capacity on more than one occasion. So that is a bit of a problem.

Zoo Tycoon is a must have in my opinion regardless of your age. If you are making the jump to the Xbox One then you definitely want to get it for that system and skip the 360 version. Just watching the animals is a ton of fun and itís almost as enjoyable as going to the zoo. I especially loved watching the Lemurs chase each other around and in my Bear exhibit I watched the bears wrestle around on many occasions. I am honestly telling you this game is so much fun and itíll make you smile more than once. This will definitely hold us over until we get our hands on the Xbox One version. Despite some of the technical flaws and the fact that the game is a watered down version we still feel its well worth any 360 owners time. And any game that has an achievement called "Poop Master" is alright in our book.

 
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