Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Zoo Tycoon Complete Collection
by Chris Taylor

Do you think you could run a major business? Buy and sell the things you need? Manage staff and satisfy customers? You get to try in Zoo Tycoon Complete Collection, a simulation game from Microsoft. It combines the original Zoo Tycoon with the two expansion packs Marine Mania and Dinosaur Digs. Overall, you have over 100 animals to populate a zoo that you build from a selection of over 500 objects.

To get up to speed, I ran through the on-line tutorials, which explained the basics in clear and sometimes humorous steps. At the end of the final tutorial, I decided to take the lazy route and continue with the existing zoo. I took a break for supper and neglected to pause the game. I came back a couple of hours later to find that all my animals had broken out of their enclosures and escaped. There were no guests left. For all I knew, they had been eaten. My zoo was bankrupt. Lesson number one – do not neglect your zoo.

I started again from scratch. I chose a medium-sized site and was given $75,000 to begin. I built slowly, with a few animal exhibits and then adding some food carts and a restaurant. I built some rides for the kids. Then I started really concentrating on adding more animals.

Lesson number one –
do not neglect your zoo.

When you adopt animals, you have to provide what they need and like. If your animals are happy, your guests will sense it and appreciate your zoo. Zoo Tycoon is all about happiness. Your aim is to maximize the satisfaction of your animals and guests, as well as get a high rating for your zoo. The zoo rating seems to come from a number of factors, but if you run a good, profitable zoo and manage to attract a lot of guests, your zoo rating will be high.

How do you know what animals need or like? Zoo Tycoon has information screens about each animal available for adoption. As well, as you modify aspects of a habitat, animals living there will show their approval or displeasure with little green happy faces or red sad faces rising off them. You can also select an animal in your zoo and ask the zookeeper’s advice. The zookeeper will provide hints on how their habitat may be improved. The 45-page manual can also help. As well, there is a huge, 209-page Strategies & Secrets manual provided on disk in Adobe Reader format.

I came back to find that
all my animals had escaped.
There were no guests left.
For all I knew, they
had been eaten

For overall terrain elevation, most animals are happy on flat ground. But some prefer hills or cliffs. For a price, you can modify the ground. Also, the groundcover must be selected. There are lots of choices, such as sand, fresh or salt water, rainforest, dirt, grass, etc. A polar bear on sand is an obvious bad choice. African buffalo are happy with a mix of savannah grass, dirt, sand, and water.

You have to provide above-ground amenities appropriate for your animals. There are lots of different types of trees and bushes and you have to choose the right kind. Some, like chimps, are very unhappy if you don’t provide them with lots of trees. Camels, on the other hand, prefer rather sparse vegetation. You can also buy various rock formations. Lions love big rocks they can climb up on.

Shelters are a must. Your hoofed animals might like a lean-to. Elephants need something more substantial. Warthogs like burrows in the ground. All are available at a price.

Of course, your animals need food. You must hire zookeepers who will feed and care for the animals. They know what the animals like to eat and, as long as you hire enough zookeepers, you don’t have to worry about food.

By now, you might be thinking that running a zoo is a quick way to the poor-house. But there are lots of ways to make money as well. Right up front, there is an admission fee to get in the zoo. And you can build a wide variety of things for your lucky guests to spend their hard-earned cash on, such as restaurants, rides, food carts, souvenir stands and shops, cotton candy stands, drink machines and much more. You get to set prices, but I advise you to start with the default prices. Most of your guests don’t seem to object to them.

You don’t have to gouge your guests for every little thing. For a price, you can provide them with other niceties to make their visit more enjoyable. On the small side, there are things like park benches, picnic tables, trash cans, and lamps. At the other end of the scale you can buy a Japanese garden for your guests to relax in.

Along about game year five, I started noticing occasional fences were breaking and animals were getting out. I would chase them down and put them back in their cages and replace the broken section of fence. Then I discovered that maintenance staff would repair fences. I had a couple walking around the park sweeping up and emptying trash cans, but I guess they were too busy to get to all the fences. Of course, what’s more important? Picking up garbage or preventing a lion from snacking on your guests? I finally hired four more maintenance staff, dedicated them to fixing fences and rarely had to be concerned about fences after that.

The work never stops at the zoo. You have to always be on the lookout for developing situations. Animals give birth. If enclosures get too crowded, the animals get unhappy, so you have to sell some of them. Animals can also die of old age and have to be replaced. If you don’t have enough maintenance workers, the trash cans overflow and guests start complaining and getting grumpy.

You should spend some money on research. If you do, every now and then new items or capabilities become available. You can get toys for your animals, new shelters, education for your staff so the animals are better cared for, tricks for performing animals, and more.

I had lots of fun just building free-form zoos. But if you like a challenge, Zoo Tycoon includes three dozen scenarios with defined goals. For example, one of the beginner scenarios is a small zoo with 3 well-designed exhibits and 3 animal types ready for adoption. The goal is to have 6 exhibits with a suitability rating of at least 60 and an animal satisfaction rating of at least 80 within 6 months (a year in Zoo Tycoon takes about 75 minutes). As you progress to more advanced levels, these scenarios get quite challenging.

And if you get bored, try dropping some of your guests in with the woolly mammoth or crocodiles. Or try taking out a section of the lions’ cage as a big crowd of guests go walking by. Make sure your speakers are turned on.

I find Zoo Tycoon to be a fascinating, engaging game. Highly recommended.

System requirements:
Win98/ME/2K/XP, 64MB RAM (128MB RAM for XP), 233Mhz processor, 1.4GB disk space, 4MB video card with 2D.

Street price in Ottawa - $50

Message box reads:
Congratulations! African Warthog 33 has given birth.
Guests are saying the entrance fee is a really good value.
African Warthog 22 has died of old age.
Guests seem to be very happy with your zoo.

Bottom Line:

Zoo Tycoon Complete Collection
Approx. $50 Canadian
from Microsoft
Web site:
http://www.microsoft.com/games/zootycoon/default.asp


Posted October 2004

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