December 16, 2013

Zoo Tycoon

Lasting First Impressions

With all of the fanfare surrounding Microsoft’s launch of the Xbox One and high profile games such as Forza Motorsport 5 and Dead Rising 3, it might have been hard to spot the small diamond in the rough known as Zoo Tycoon.  Developed by Microsoft Game Studios, Zoo Tycoon was a complete surprise and definitely not what I would have expected to see in the launch lineup for a brand new console.  It is a title that many will probably pass over in favour of the more mainstream games that were released, but in this humble gamer’s opinion, that is a mistake.  Zoo Tycoon is probably the most fun I’ve had with a simulation style game in a very long time.

Zoo Tycoon Screen (7)

Zoo Tycoon is, as mentioned above, a simulation game in which you take on the role of an entrepreneur in charge of building and managing your very own zoo.  Think Sim City, but with animals and attractions and a very fun third person view of your creation.  There is plenty to take care of when managing a zoo.  From taking care of the animals: making sure they have enough food, are kept clean, have things to play with; to managing your customers: ensuring they are happy, have enough variety of animals to see, have restrooms to use, food to eat, and stuff to buy.  As the zoo becomes more popular, managing all of this can become quite a daunting task for any zookeeper.  As players progress and increase their “Star Rating” more types of animals can be “researched” (there are over 100 different animals available), more type of attractions, and even zoo management buildings such as a janitorial building and even an animal breeder.  These “staff” buildings then need to have staff hired who begin to help out with the management of the entire zoo.

Zoo Tycoon Screen (2)

Players may find themselves using the overhead view of the zoo for most of their management work, but Zoo Tycoon also has a rather fun third person mode in which you can run (or drive) around the zoo and see it first hand.  Each of the animal attractions can have interactive activities built that can be played in this third person mode.  For example, the elephants can be washed using the hoses, or fed their favourite foods.  Using either the controller or Kinect, players pick up the food and feed it to the elephants, or grab the hose and hose them off.  Chimpanzees can be played with by using Kinect to make faces, or covering your eyes and they will mimic what you do.  The Kinect features are not required to play these interactive games, however, and often times seem to get in the way as there is no way to actually turn them off in-game.  Even though the controller can be used for all interactivities, sometimes the Kinect thinks you’re trying to use the Kinect controls and things just go haywire.  Having a way to turn off Kinect in-game would be a welcome option.  In all honesty, this was the only thing I felt was ‘wrong’ with this incredibly fun game.

Zoo Tycoon Screen (3)

Zoo Tycoon offers players three different play modes.  There is a freeform mode in which players have an unlimited budget and just have fun building and managing their own zoo.  There is also a campaign mode which contains different zoos around the world that must be managed from differing starting points and with different challenges to overcome.  Finally, there is the challenge mode in which players will be given a zoo for approximately 15 minutes to complete specific tasks in order to succeed.  All of these modes are fun to play for any age.  Younger children may have trouble with all the management activities but they will definitely appreciate the up close and personal activities with all the animals.  Players can even share their zoo online and have up to 3 more of their Xbox Live friends help with the management of their zoo.  Animals can be bred and gifted to friends as well.

Zoo Tycoon was a complete surprise.  It may be eclipsed by the larger, more prominent titles in Xbox One’s launch lineup, but this is definitely a game that everyone can enjoy.  If you’re a fan of any kind of sim game, you certainly don’t want to pass this one up.

Microsoft, I gave you an hour and I am IMPRESSED.  Well, to be honest, I gave you much more than an hour because this game is just way too fun to put down after just one hour!

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About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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