Preview: Zoo Tycoon 2 (PC) Hands-On Impressions

Publisher: Microsoft / Developer: Blue Fang Games / Genre: Strategy / Release Date: 11-09-04

Ever want to sadistically torture not only zoo animals but guests as well? Have the desire to take an innocent game meant to please and amuse viewers of all ages in an entirely wholesome way and pervert it to suit your malevolent god complex? Me too!

And so I volunteered to be the one to preview Zoo Tycoon 2.

Before we go into the fun stuff, shall we cover the basics my young sprouts?

Starting out with the tutorial it is plain to see this is definitely a game for all ages, the instructions are very basic and clear… and they congratulate you when you click the right button! My self-esteem soared. Part of me wanted to click on the mooseâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s inappropriate parts and see if it would respond like the Black & White creature. Alas no, but again, this is an all ages game and there is only an arrow, no omnipresent hand. One may, however, use said arrow to drag guests wherever they please. Including inside the animal confinements.

Welcome to the Zoo. Weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re open for business.

After the tutorial, the freeform option is a great way to get acquainted with becoming a zoo tycoon. Given unlimited cash and access to all the animals, scenery, and buildings the player can essentially run amuck and explore all that Zoo Tycoon 2 has to offer. Which is quite a bloody lot. There are three hundred building items to choose from, a slew of restaurants, stands, shops, attractions, exhibit materials, and, toys. Designing a zoo is not as simple as it may seem. Beyond selecting the animals [of which there are 30, from different climates], the player can create a whole theme for their zoo. There are a variety of biomes [plants and animals in a specific climate condition] including desert, tropical rain forest, arctic tundra, savannah, and more. Choosing a biome will dictate what kind of animals and attractions are best suited to the zoo. Unless you are sadistic and place a beaver, a flamingo, and an alligator in a plain and unsuitable confinement. Heh. After this, the player needs to ask themself the important questions. Are you for the rich scum? In it for the money, you capitalist bastard? Then high-end restaurants and sushi booths will be the way to go. Pandering to the proletariat? Pretzel stands and ice creams booths it is. Money is made through admission to the park and generosity to strategically placed donation boxes. Aesthetics as well as practicality come into place when deciding on what type of fence surrounds the animals, what kind of environment they will live in. Zoo Tycoon 2 offers a new habitat editor and biome brush. The editor allows the player to create mountains and valleys and anything else they can think up to make a really unique environment for their animals. For those who just want to get the particulars of the animalâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s home out of the way, the biome brush will fill the exhibit with appropriate foliage and terrain for the environ chosen.

Add in all kinds of buildings, like restaurants, to craft your perfect Zoo.

Something I enjoyed especially was the â┚¬ËœZoo Guestâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ mode new to Zoo Tycoon 2. As the ZooGod, you can take a first person view of the park, and watch your guests enjoy your creation. This is also useful when you pack nine angry grizzly females into a tiny cage with no food or water. I mean, hearing the screams of the guests as the grizzlies break free and chase them is alright, but it is by far better to watch them flee in person. While not treated to the malicious glee that can only be gained by watching your Sim get upset after they wet themself, Zoo Tycoon 2 does have angry looking red faces over upset animals. The Zoo Guest view can also be fun for someone who has worked hard to create a truly great zoo. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s somewhat gratifying to be able to see your creation close up, rather than from the birdâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s eye view.

Zoo Tycoon 2 brings much depth in gameplay as every animal, guest, and staff person has their own needs and wants [oh Patty Partel, I know you donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t like having Grizzly 6 chasing you, but it does amuse me so]. One of the key features noted by Blue Fang are the new challenges presented to the player, Random and Dynamic challenges. Random challenges arise during the building of the zoo, and Dynamic will relate to the current map or scenario being played. Running the massive zoo is a task unto itself, and the challenges promise to add some twists to the undertaking. Zoo Tycoon 2 has the promise for immense replayability. Beyond the vast selection of biomes, buildings, and animals et cetera, free downloadable content will be available at More animals and building objects will be added to the site. Lovers of any of the Tycoon games, or even sim creation games in general [City comes to mind] will definitely find something to appreciate in this game. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s simple enough for a kid to enjoy, but older players will be better able to utilize all the options available.

Build your own Zoo and then visit it in guest mode!

And when you get bored, I suggest the always successful combo of small cages, crowded animals, pretzel stands, water stands, and no bathrooms. Try to have no staff or garbage either.

I am a cruel and petty ZooGod. Fear my angry grizzly army!