Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side! What animal should you never play a game against? A cheetah! Which animal should you never trust? A lion! Which football team do snakes sssuport? Sssouthampton! Ahem.
I guess you figured me out then huh? He he yes that’s right. I had such a terrible time trying to figure out a good introduction that I decided to fill it full of lame animal jokes in a poor attempt at frightening people off from reading the rest. Oh it didn’t work? Then I guess I should just ramble on about non-relevant topics in this part until the space is full and I don’t have to write any more. Actually when I think of animals I think of those torrid days out in the zoo. You know those ones where you are still in a pram and the whole family (aunts, uncles, grandparent’s etc) pays a visit to the local Wildlife Park. First of all the kids start screaming at their parents that they want to go on this ride and that one which eventually leads the party to being split up. Nan gets lost whilst granddad films young ladies and donkeys ‘poopin with his new fangled video camera. Mum loses her rag with your older brother and ends up smacking him across the butt and dragging him back to the pushchair whilst he kicks and screams. Dad walks off in hope of finding some piece and quiet leaving you eating a fast-melting ice cream, the type that runs down your arm and into your trousers. Along the way various birds such as ducks and geese are chased and kicked whilst monkeys have bananas lobbed at them. Towards the exit we see the rides again and after much kicking and screaming everyone is hauled onto the big wheel so to tell the kids that they did go on a ride at the zoo. Cousins sulk, grandparents remain quiet and parents try to look upbeat about things. Sound familiar? I thought so. I have always wondered why the tradition of an embarrassing day out at the zoo still stands. People know the family will endure a crisis involving ice creams and screaming kids, so why go? This is just like soaps such as Eastenders. The only time a storyline can go forward is at a party. Girlfriends get drunk and go off with boyfriend’s brothers/dads/uncles/next door neighbours, mums and aunts fall out, a person gets shot and fights break out. The next few months are then spent tidying up friendships and relationships, only for them to throw.another party. It never ends. And people watch this stuff?
Games developers seem to know what distress zoos cause families and so are restricted to giving animal parks small roles in games, sometimes not including them at all. Sim City had a large area allocated to zoos, even though you couldn’t visit them. Those funny stats they have (like number of eggs thrown at majors house and so on) should have included ‘families vowed to never come back then did so three weeks later to do the same vows’ for a more lifelike experience. Peacekeepers in Iraq have made football pitches to get the local kids together, hospitals and clinics to cure the sick and banks for the population to get money. But no zoos, because obviously this would split the country apart. So why in god’s name have Novatrix made a game around every parent’s worst nightmare? Do they feel no pain? When researching into animal welfare did they not hear the screams of parents, see the tantrums of toddlers, and witness the way ice cream goes in hot weather? And they then have the cheek to slap a £29.99 price tag on the damned thing? Well yes, they did.
The first thing that strikes me with Wildlife Park is that similarities with Theme Park World go unfounded. Rather than laying a few paths and then place the enclosures, you have to build the pens manually. Starting with the gate so staff can get in, you carry on with the walls (animal specific- some animals feel more at home with Perspex as others would with wood stumps), trees (same as the walls) and ground types. Next you have to place objects in the pen, which range from water pumps to food containers. The former creates water (duh!) pools for the animals to swim in (like penguins) plus other objects like heaters, coolers and snow-making machines are self-explanatory. After creating the enclosure you must release the animal into its surroundings from a crate. Leave the trapped creature in there for long and it’ll grow tired, annoyed and possibly die. Of course, you don’t have to buy a new animal for each enclosure. If such things as fights break out or animals dislike each other then hiring a Steve Irwin type geezer will capture them in a crate for you to move them to another pen. Once you have the basics of enclosure designing and placing the right buildings such as food stores, rubbish disposal and animal hospitals (sadly no Rolf Harris- but here’s for the sequel) you can lay back and take a nap. Why? Because this is all you do. Checking on each animal from time to time making sure they are ok gets very tiring after three hours as you watch penguins slide around on their stomachs, monkeys do that armpit hair-tug thing whilst hanging from tyres and lions strut around looking all mean and tough.
Progressing through the objectives becomes a chore as you wonder when something exciting might happen. From my game save I can assure you that there are two types of scenario; with or without the public. Letting people walk around your park requires building ice cream stalls, information kiosks and a visitors centre. Sadly all they do is walk and pass judgement, occasionally getting attacked by a stray animal which evaded a fallen down fence. The animal trapper will automatically run and stop the beast whilst a handyman (who only specialises in fixing fences) will mend the barrier. Without the public things become even more boring as you just plot out an enclosure then sit back until the objective is complete.
Looking at Wildlife Park the animals are re-created faithfully and you can see shoulder muscles in tigers move when they walk. Buildings all have the detail of Command and Conquer although it is a shame that they just sit there with no animation. Seeing that rain has an effect on visitors (they like indoor events when the weather is bad) it would have been nice to see grass plains flood and water to gush from roofs. As far as the graphics go though they do the job well; animals look realistic as do buildings, although a little more detail on the latter and park guests would have been nicer. Held up next to graphical beauties like Sim City and The Sims (I’m new to PC gaming so I wouldn’t really know what the benchmark titles are – answers on a postcard) and you see the word AVERAGE pop up like the finger prints of a burglar under ultra-violet light. And lets face it, they would have to literally rob my games knowledge for me to walk into a shop and say “wow, that looks fantastic. Here’s thirty notes my good man, and keep the 1p change.” That would never happen. 1p can go a long way.
As a man who loves a laugh-a-minute I found it amazing that Wildlife Park is humour-free; hits such as Sim City (the news ticker- tree stuck in cat; fire-fighters baffled), Theme Park World (those wacky rides which would obviously not be reconstructed in real life- Um Bongo anyone?) and The Sims all thrilled gamers like an audience with Ken Dodd. However switch on this and it’s like being stuck inside a Labour Party Conference in a school uniform- everything is taken very seriously and you daren’t cock it up. To be honest I was expecting full-on jokes, and without a news ticker or funny guest comments I was thoroughly disappointed. No ‘PPP-Pick up a penguin say Animals ‘R’ Us’, no ‘Wild Thing’ jokes, no ‘spotty cat-like creature wins scrabble tournament for 4th year running; contestants feel cheated’. Instead we get explanations of animal habitats, origins etc which bore the hell of me. And that’s just me, a person not really ‘in’ with PC gaming. So what must some spotty, four eyed, no-friends geek (to take the PC gamer stereotype to the extreme) think when he shells out 30 big ones for a sodding wildlife documentary? Do we get lined paper to write an essay afterwards? No, I bloody hope not. I left school two years ago to get free of rules, wankers called ‘class mates’ and bloody exams. If I wanted a lesson in a subject I never sodding wanted then I’d have paid £100 to Sky for the Discovery Channel and stared at the outback of Africa all bloody day! Seriously though, a little humour would have gone along way. Instead what we are left with is a ‘do-it-yourself inseminate a cow guide’ which will leave many (including me) reaching for the uninstall button.
After the disaster that was the introduction I have to end this thing now. Usually you start with a theme and stick to it throughout with a cheeky little comment at the bottom of the review. But where the hell do you go with a zoo?
New to PC gaming? Give this a miss, unless you were lucky like me (more like unlucky, but I’m grateful for any game I lay my mitts on for nowt) and received it for nothing as long as I could bear the disappointment and boredom to actually write a thousand word article on it. No, writing the word ‘shite’ a thousand times doesn’t count either. Remember the name; Wildlife Park. Now go run a mile. Quickly, it could bite…