Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


Zoo Tycoon 2
by Chris Taylor

Last October I wrote a review of Zoo Tycoon Complete Collection, which is the original Zoo Tycoon with a couple of add-on packs. You can read the review at http://opcug.ca/public/reviews/zoo_tycoon.htm.

I found the program engaging and addictive. So when Microsoft released Zoo Tycoon 2 (ZT2), I decided to give it a whirl.

The main objective of the game has not changed. You run a zoo and make a profit. Sounds pretty simple, right? But it is not so easy.

As with the original game, you have to build enclosures for the animals. Of course, the habitat must be adjusted to suit the animals that will live there. Keeping habitat in mind, you can pretty freely mix and match species in a single enclosure. As an experiment, I put lions, tigers, and crocodiles together with peafowl and ostriches. I gave them no (other) food. To my surprise, they all survived.

ZT2 continues in the tradition of the first release in that everything hinges on happiness. If your animals are happy, the guests will enjoy them more and your guests will be happy. Happy guests hang around longer and spend more money.

But guests need more than animals to keep them happy and spending money. You can make your zoo attractive by buying scenery items including benches, lamps, topiary, and more. Your guests need rest rooms, food and drink carts and restaurants. A gift shop or two can help your bottom line as well.

There are three main modes to play ZT2.

A freeform game gives you unlimited funds and all animals and objects are available for purchase. You start from scratch and build anything you want. As you add more animals and other attractions, more guests will arrive. As long as you care for all aspects of your zoo, it is almost certain to be profitable.

The next step up is a challenge game. You still build just about anything you want and you can choose some specific challenges, but you don’t have goals you have to meet. You can choose whatever starting bank account you want.

The hardest is a campaign game. These games have several scenarios, each with specific goals to complete. And often these are very tough tasks. One example is where you have to take over a neglected, run-down zoo. Exhibits are filthy, animals are underfed and sick, and trash litters the park. You are given very limited funds and it is up to you to turn things around. If you don’t act quickly, your zoo will get shut down.

I found playing the challenge games the most interesting. When you have limited funds, you have to make careful choices. While a couple of Giant Pandas might attract a lot of guests, at $50,000 each, you may not be able to afford them. Starting with some less expensive animals like moose ($1,250 each) or Emperor Penguins ($2,000 each) might allow you to slowly build up to a thriving zoo. Likewise, when choosing amenities for your guests, you might have to start with hot dogs stands rather than fancy restaurants. And a $560 splash fountain might be a little extravagant when funds are short.

Much so far is quite similar to the original Zoo Tycoon. But what sets Zoo Tycoon 2 far apart from the original is the graphic detail. ZT2 is spectacular in this regard. The animals, enclosures, scenery, guests, and buildings all have a much more realistic appearance to them. This adds immensely to the immersive quality of the game.

Not only are the overhead views more detailed and realistic, but ZT2 adds another new dimension to running a zoo – guest mode! This zooms you down to ground level and you can walk around the zoo just like one of your guests. In this mode, the additional graphic detail really shines.

Not only can you act as a guest, but you can help run your park from ground level. If you are short on staff, you can help out by picking up trash, emptying garbage cans and even take care of animals – feeding them, grooming them, and picking up their poop.

There is also a photo mode, where you can wander around your zoo snapping pictures which can be saved in photo albums. They are stored on disk as JPeg files, so you can use them elsewhere as well.

ZT2 comes with a video DVD with a whole pile of short – most are a couple of minutes long – clips about animals from National Geographic Channel’s Totally Wild series. Quite educational and entertaining.

Updates to the main program, as well as additional objects such as animals, scenery, entire themes, toys for animals, etc can be downloaded from Microsoft to keep the game new and interesting.

All in all, I found Zoo Tycoon 2 to be even more interesting and engaging than the original. Highly recommended for those who enjoy this genre of game.

Minimum system requirements: Windows 98 SE or better, 733MHz CPU, 256MB RAM, 8x CD-ROM drive, 16MB 3D graphics card.

Average street price in Ottawa is $50.


Up close and personal


Middle caption reads: "Zookeeper can't reach the ungulate poop!"


Bottom Line:

Zoo Tycoon 2
Approx. $50 Canadian
from Microsoft
Web site:
http://www.microsoft.com/games/zootycoon/default.asp


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Ottawa Personal Computer Users Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

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