Zoo Empire

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 75/100

Zoo Empire Review
Published by: Enlight Software
Developed by: Enlight Software
Format Reviewed: PC
Review by: Wencke Schuncken

The life of a reviewer seems cool but what to do if you have a lot of animals standing in front of your door? Elephants, tigers, bears, you name it. It looks like the Arc of Noach has landed right in front of my house. After opening the door, the animals asked me if I could build them a 5 star zoo with good shelters and environment for them. Thank goodness, I've received Zoo Empire so I could help them out and promised them to do my best to build a beautiful zoo for them with a good accommodation, qualified nursing and zoo visitors with a smile on their faces.

Zoo Empire is a kiddy styled management sim and the main goals are to design, build, maintain and create a profitable zoo. Maybe by reading this you'll get some flashbacks to Microsoft's Zoo Tycoon. Don't worry, that happened to me as well when I installed the game and saw pictures of the zoo employees, animals and the environment. Zoo Empire has a couple of extra features compared to zoo tycoon and has a more kiddy graphic style. It's a lovely and colorful game with sweet designed characters (animals and people) and the extra features are focused on the training of employees and animals. It is possible to build animal houses to let the trained animals perform their acts, which the visitors can watch. By training the employees you unlock even more visitor attractions like for example the education buildings to educate the visitors about the animals history and specifications.

The installation of the game takes a couple of minutes and during the installation you can see pictures of the zoo features. The game takes 1 Gb of your HD. After the installation there's the menu with some limited options. It's up to you whether you start a new zoo career or play a free form game in the sandbox. If you already started and saved a game, there's an option in the menu to load the saved game. Not satisfied with the sound, graphics or interface? You can change the settings in the options menu. Of course the exit button is also available but hey, do we won't to think about that?

The career mode starts with choosing your character to play with. Cool to see that both a male as a female character can be chosen. Both look funny with a nice ranger outfit. To boost up your skills you get 5 stars to divide on the catching of animals, food providing, cleaning of the zoo or increasing the health of the animals. After dividing the start you need to give the person a name and of you go to the objectives. Yes this is the tutorial mode and you will learn all features available in the game and how to play the game in the best possible way. In total 20 objectives can be played and all are very clearly explained and very diverse. Learn how to create a walking path, how to create the best possible animal accommodations, how to make your animals happy and healthy, how to employ new employees, which food facilities to choose from and how to influence the zoo rating. And there are many more objectives to fulfill and to learn all about the game play.

If you start the career mode, a couple of objectives need to be done to learn the basics. After completing the first 5 objectives you can choose which objective you want to learn (more about). Note that objectives need to be completed by a certain time limit. By following the instructions you get more experience with the menu interfaces and meaning of the menu buttons. And believe me, it looks very overwhelming when you see all the possibilities. But don't panic. Thanks to the career mode with all its objectives you learn every facet of the game and how to become a Zoo Emperor, ruler of the Zoo Empire.

After you had enough training and you're capable of designing, building, maintaining and creating a profitable zoo I guess it's time for developing your own zoo. In the free form game mode (also known as sandbox...) it's possible to develop your own zoo without having any objectives. Sorry of course there's 1 golden rule as in every tycoon / sim game. You need to earn cash. The more cash you earn, the more you can invest in the zoo. Yes, money makes the world go round. Before you start the free form mode you need to enter a zoo name, select the square meters surface you want to build on and last but not least select your starting capital (funds). Of course there's a maximum of funds and $1.000.000 is the max. After selecting the above items it's time for the big job. Start designing the entrance and style the zoo surface (height and depth floor). If it satisfied you move on to creating and improving of the animal cages. It's very important to reckon with space as you animals will breed and they need bigger cages in the future!

Every animal has its own wishes regarding flora, fauna, type fence, space between the visitors and the animals, toys and sleeping shelters. The exhibit needs to be styled to please the animals which live in it. The happiness of the animals increases the zoo rating and pleases the visitors. Talking about visitors, they need to be satisfied as well for the zoo rating . You need to take care of them as well. A lot of attributes can be build to please them. Food facilities are required but also animal shows, education centers and gift shops are very good attractions. Not only will it satisfy your visitors happiness but also the extra income of these buildings is good for your purse. So invest first to get the profit later on. And don't forget about the zoo rating. The happier everybody is, the zoo rating increases. And a famous and good rated zoo always attracts more visitors! Oh yes, don't forget to hire some employees to take care after the animals and visitors. They may costs a fortune, but every penny worth. Who else needs to catch the escaped animals? You? Me? I'm already afraid of catching a spider so don't expect me to catch a tiger or an elephant.

The controlling of the game can be done by mouse and keyboard. On the screen you'll see the menu interfaces with lots of buttons to click on with the mouse. If you’re a fast player it’s useful to use the shortcut keys on the keyboard. Camera positions can be changed both by mouse and keyboard. Personally I prefer only to play this game with the mouse only.

To wrap things up this is a pretty cool and entertaining zoo management simulation with lots of possibilities regarding designing, building and training. I know that it isn’t a very original game concept but it’s a nice game if you love tycoon games and entertaining parks. Thanks to the colorful graphics and the cartoon look it becomes a pleasure of playing it. It’s a good competitor for Microsoft’s Zoo Tycoon 2.