I’m a ‘Tycoon’ fan, I love this genre of games and Zoo Tycoon on the current generation of Xbox One hardware is simply superb. A magical game for children, teenagers, Tycoon fans and everyone in between. It emerges as one of the strongest launch titles from Microsoft albeit amongst over heavy weight likes Ryse and Forza Motorsport 5. It’s a bright game offering up a menagerie of superb animal game-play.
Zoo Tycoon is a game which let’s you release you imagination and quite literally build your dream Zoo. It’s a game you can play alone or invite (up to) four of your friends via Xbox LIVE to help you. Zoo Tycoon has its heart in the right place and Frontier Developments have worked hard to deliver a game that is entertaining as well as socially conscious in its efforts to demonstrate that running a Zoo isn’t just about displaying exotic animals for Joe Public to stare at whilst we (the player) make a quick pound or two. Frontier Developments have ensured that Zoo Tycoon does a stand up job of educating players about the animals in the game including their natural habitats and behavioural habits. Frontier haven’t just stopped there though, they’ve also ensured that whilst players enjoy everything Zoo Tycoon has to offer, they soon realise that increasing the Zoo’s fame and profit is just a small step to achieving a environmentally conscious park that looks after it’s animals as well as helping preserve their way of life and reintroducing them back to their natural habitats after successful breeding.
Don’t worry, being socially aware and minded isn’t all that hard and stressful. In fact Frontier have made sure that this console sim title remains fun and interesting without the hassle and delicate intricacies of more advanced PC sims. Zoo Tycoon has been developed to play to the consoles strengths, of which we are aware there are a lot, this includes menus that are easy to navigate, fluid building mechanics, snappy, flashy and readable visuals. A couple of features have been added to the latest title in this franchise which are purely aimed at console players, the most fun of which is the ability to navigate your Zoo at ground level. You can either jog around the park on foot or jump in a buggy and drive around. Don’t worry, your visitors will automatically move out of the way. Whilst on foot you’ll be able to take pictures of your exhibit as it grows and evolves under your leadership. Being able to experience the Zoo you are building like this, as your visitors do, may seem like a gimmick, but the overall experience is a pleasant one and it really contributes to the overall enjoyment of the game.
If you have played Tycoon games for a while, especially on PC, you’ll know that sometimes developers leave the user interface as ugly cumbersome behemoths that we need to deal with. Unlike those games, Zoo Tycoon is is enjoyable from moment-to-moment because you never struggle navigating with the interface and this means it is quick and easy to keep with duties associated with running a Zoo.
Zoo Tycoon includes Kinect functionality and the implementation of this is brilliant. Long gone are the days of players waving their arms and hands frantically in front of the TV, Zoo Tycoon manages to make your Kinect seems fluid and natural. You can feed your animals, or play with them via facial expressions and hand gestures. As gimmicky as it may seem, I can’t deny how adorable it was to pull faces and play peek-a-boo with a chimpanzee. But putting this to shame is the extremely clever way Frontier Developments have implemented voice commands via Kinect. Being able to say commands like ‘Ping Animal hunger’ and have that particular animal need overlaid across the entire park immediately made it extremely easy to spot which enclosures needed their feeding stations refilled. Almost every statistic you could need is available via various voice commands including the ability see which animals are ready to be released to the wild. These added features, with their clever implementation made the micromanagement of my Zoo a breeze.
It’s quite straightforward really, you’ll need to spend your profits made from ticket and concession sales on expanding and improving the Zoo. You’ll achieve this through creating new exhibits that replicate various examples of habitats from around the world, then helicopter in some animals before ensuring they have enough food, water, facilities to clean and entertainment. You’ll of course be able to keep bumping up your profits by improving other aspects of your park including shops, restaurants, food stalls and sideshow entertainers. Keep your animals and guests happy and your Zoo will become more popular whilst gaining fame. The higher your fame level the more types of species you’ll be able to house in your Zoo.
I am worried for Zoo Tycoon however as it seems undoubtedly fated to fall off the radar of most adult gamers who will be looking at the flashier and mature games out at present. It’s a shame, because this could be an even greater game when shared and played together as a family. The game itself might not be perfect, and I will be admit I found a few bugs here and there including glitches in the tutorial which left me confused as to what I was supposed to be doing. But when all is said and done the game does a superb job of showing off what the Xbox One can achieve, it offers hours of free-style game-play and is like I said at the beginning, fun and enjoyable for all ages.
If you’re looking for an addictive alternative to the First Person Shooter or racing titles in Xbox One’s launch line-up, then Zoo Tycoon is a game you should invest in.