picked up a copy of ZOO TYCOON, a Microsoft game at COMDEX. It seemed
a logical one to review since Marion worked at the San Antonio Zoo as a
docent for 10 years and had a pretty good idea of the way a zoo should
be laid out.
The game installed with minor problems in that you had to have an “Active
X” plugin to use the internet downloads, but that was no big problem.
Once installed it performed flawlessly.
The concept seems to build on the method used in the “Sims” games. You
design something, watch it closely, tweak it as necessary and success will
be yours. In other simulations the creatures you design will let
you know how you’re doing. In Zoo Tycoon the health and happiness of the
animals is your reward.
Our grand daughters (9 and 7) heard us installing the game and they
gathered around. Within ten minutes WE were watching them play with minimal
study of the manual and lots of trial and error.
The girls loved it. Top of the bunch of games. The best ever.
You see, they were thrilled when they got the habitat of the animals
set up properly and they were shouting with happiness when some of the
animals gave birth to new babies. (Yeah, we had to remind them to include
both sexes in the beginning, but at least we had some input). They had
real tears when animals got sick and <gasp> died. They recognized the
cycle of life but it still hurt.
The game has an excellent tutorial and practice games to get you into
the swing of it. You have easy access to help as you proceed to investigate
what each button does and the concept is quite easy.
You fence in an area and buy animals to put in it. Set up a shelter
and habitat based on the information on the animal. Add soda machines,
snack bars, gift shops, restrooms, trash cans and other items as the customers
come in and money becomes available.
Warnings on the health and happiness of the animals show up and you
can check the status of health, food, happiness on each animal. You can
sell excess animals to gain money and to “age” the zoo population by selling
older animals and keeping the younger ones.
You verify the overall status of the zoo by being awarded blue ribbons
for superior work and for visitor happiness. You can even get foundations
to make grants to help the money crunch.
If you build a wrong habitat, the unhappy animals will die and you’ll
lose visitors. Also, placing the wrong enclosure around a lion can cost
you visitors when Leo snacks on the crowd!
The game comes with built in scenarios that have predetermined goals
and are win/lose games. You can also play the Freeform game by establishing
the parameters, the most important one being money. A lack of funds will
really make life difficult (hmmm, a point not every adult understands but
one the girls figured out rather fast).
You can register the game on the Internet and obtain other items and
creatures from the Microsoft web site. The process is rather easy IF you’re
using Internet Explorer. Navigator users can expect many, many java script
One nice touch is in the concept of beautifying the zoo by placing trees
and flowers around it. You must add certain types of trees/rocks/plants
to exhibits to make the animals happy as well so the program not only educates
about animals but also about some of the horticultural aspects also.
There are ways to find the happiness level of animals and guests and
to analyze the finances of the zoo. You can manipulate the staff and even
fire those that you no longer need. Maintenance workers need to be hired
as well as tour guides.
Ratings from guests identify needs and give you a chance to satisfy
them ranging from food to restrooms. Keeping guests happy means they’ll
spend more on food and drink (Spurs management, take note).
All in all the girls and we old folks have enjoyed the game and do recommend
it as a special gift since it seems to run about $35 unless you happen
to catch a bargain. Well worth the cost!