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Zoo Tycoon 2

Everyone loves animals. At least, everyone should. If you don’t, you’re probably deranged and I suggest that you talk to a psychiatrist before you end up killing us all. As for the rest of us well-balanced folks, animals are cool and visiting the zoo is always an entertaining experience. Seeing lions, tigers, and bears up close, in person is a fun time for the whole family. But, a trip to the zoo can not only be expensive, but an effort: the nearest major zoo for me is hours away, so unless I want to accept a less-than-stellar experience, I’m almost out of luck. I say almost because in the last few days I’ve had the pleasure of discovering Zoo Tycoon 2, which I’ve found to be nearly as entertaining as a real trip to the zoo.

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Things begin simply enough. If you start the campaign mode, you’re given a small park, some starting cash, and told to build it up to meet certain requirements. Each park is rated by stars, and with more stars, you unlock more options for pimping out your park. Primarily, you’ll need to make sure your animals (and your guests) are happy and well-fed, but you’ll also need to organize and maintain your park by setting paths, hiring staff, and building attractive environments for your animals to live in. After a while, you’ll have a massive park to maintain and a lot of work on your hands. You’ll have to release animals to the wild, expand cages as families grow, and balance keeping your customers happy and keeping your books balanced.

Theme WeekThis review is part of our inaugural “theme week” of content. Please click this link for more information!Fortunately, easy controls and smart game menu organization puts everything at your fingertips. Designing attractive parks is incredibly easy and a variety of options will keep you from getting bored. There are dozens of animals to choose from, with pandas, grizzlies, flamingos, chimpanzees, and nearly every other major animal available. You can even go as far as choosing which type of cage you want your animals in from several choices, from typical metal bars to more modern acrylic glass. Once you’ve picked your animal and built a cage, you can then decorate it, doing the best you can to match the animal’s natural habitat, plus placing food, water, and toys to keep them fed and entertained. Doing all of this is a snap thanks to handy menus for each animal that organizes all of their favorites in one place, keeping you from having to navigate cumbersome menus and making mistakes.

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In addition to being entertaining, Zoo Tycoon 2 is also reasonably attractive, which is surprising considering that this game is an older title. You look down on your park from a birds-eye view and several zoom options and complete control to spin the camera 360 degrees allows you to easily set up your zoo and look in on your animals. You can also choose to walk through your park as a guest, allowing you a first-person look at your own exhibits. Of course, this isn’t going to push your computer to it’s limits, but it’s competent enough that you won’t complain.

While this review has been mostly positive so far, I must point out that a couple of nagging bugs do plague the game – for instance, despite no obvious means of escape, I’d often find animals randomly walking around on paths. The guests didn’t seem to notice and the game didn’t either, but every now and then, a lion or a bear or a kangaroo would be found mingling with the guests. Clearly there’s a problem with the code, but I will also admit that I reviewed the game out of the box, without patching, and it is likely that this problem was addressed in subsequent patches. You also won’t be able to speed the game up at all – which means you’re going to have to wait a while to build up money, slowing down your progression.

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Despite this problem, Zoo Tycoon 2 is an entertaining and addictive game that’ll keep players just as entertained as RollerCoaster Tycoon, which is considered by most gamers to be the pinnacle of the “tycoon” genre. If you have any interest in zoos, animals, or these types of games, Zoo Tycoon 2 is strongly recommended for gamers of all ages and play styles. There’s enough included in this game to keep you playing for months and months, from the competent and robust campaign mode to the fun sandbox mode that allows you to design without being concerned about your budget. Don’t hesitate when you see it in stores, Zoo Tycoon 2 is worth your attention.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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