Other aspects of the game include feeding and cleaning your animals, as well as bringing out the big poop scoop to clear up any mess your animals leave around the park. This is all done in zookeeper mode, where you end up walking around the park in first person view. All actions are performed by pressing the space bar and you don’t have to stand around and wait for one task to finish before you can move on to the next.
The part that kids will enjoy the most is the photo feature, where you walk around and take pictures of your park. In the Challenge mode you tend to get quite a few photo specific tasks, some of them are quite easy, while others are very difficult, requiring specific animals to do specific things. You are also required to take pictures of amendments and attractions in your park to create a brochure or as commissioned by certain companies. Once accomplished you are usually rewarded in some way, so the photo feature isn’t purely fun and cosmetic.
There is also a display that keeps you informed of any problems in the park or if there is something good happening – little popup messages appear in red or green to keep you up to date. If you want to know more about the various animals in your Zoo there’s also a built in animal encyclopaedia with most of the text taken from Microsoft’s Encarta, so it should be fairly reliable.
There are plenty of things to tinker around with in the game and you can even release animals in to the wild if your park get over crowded, or you can have them adopted by other Zoos. Then there’s the park staff who aren’t needed if you’re happy to clear up the poop, feed and wash your animals yourself, but it sure makes life easier. You can also hire staff to clean the park or even to educate the guests.
There are a fair few things that are outside of your control and this is definitely not a resource management game. Now, I’m sure that many of you will be happy to hear that, but more seasoned players will miss this element in the game. You can adjust the price on the entrance fee and the price of food and goods sold in the park, but only between default settings from free to expensive in four steps. It feels like a lot of the features have been tailored for children, but then with a game based on playing with animals in a zoo, that’s not surprising.
There are other aspects of the game that disappoint though – for example, the 3D animations are not the best around, but considering the modest hardware requirements this can’t be expected. What’s really disappointing though are the sound effects and music – considering that subject matter, the sound effects could have been awesome, but they’re not, while the music also feels rather dated.
Overall Zoo Tycoon 2 is an entertaining game that should be appealing to the younger generation as long as they can get some adult help at times. It’s also easy to pick up and play, but ultimately there isn’t enough content to keep you coming back for more.
Zoo Tycoon 2 is a strange mix of game and educational tool using a game engine that’s a combination of The Sims and a theme park simulator. It can definitely be fun for a while, but just don’t expect to be firing it up long after Christmas.