Zoo Tycoon Xbox360


by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 70/100

Zoo Tycoon Xbox360 Female Gamers Review
Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Format Reviewed: Xbox360
Reviewed by: Wencke Schuncken

This reviewer was blown away the first time the new zoo tycoon was presented. No, it wasn’t the view of an amazing, gigantic elephant causing it; it was the view of the zoo keeper, the shades, and the design. First impression counts, but what about the gameplay?

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The game includes several gaming modes and most (experienced Zoo Tycoon gamers will skip the training mode and learn the basics and possibilities by simple playing. Learning from mistakes and taking multiple tries can be an option, but not this reviewer. As I wanted to learn everything the game contains, I went through a loooong session in training mode. It took way too long, as I was eager to jump into the game and build magnificent zoos. In training mode you do learn, step by step, how to become a Zoo Tycoon by playing different scenarios in the world of zoo construction and management. One important aspect that will be repeated over and over again is how important money is, which is generated mostly by guests. The happier the guests, the more income are generated. Oh, you think this game was all about animals? Well, think again … animals are just a method to make money. To complete the circle of generating money, animals need to feel happy in their habitats, guests watch happy animals, the zoo rating raises, and the money starts to flow in.

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The training mode includes all kinds of exercises and challenges. You’ll learn all about the controls, variety of animals and their enrichments, animal exhibits, etc. All the basics will be taught by playing simple scenarios with step-by-step instructions through the world of zoo construction and management. For starters choose a habitat (for example Tropical or Savannah), adopt animal(s) which feel happy in the type of habitat, extend the habitat with food, toys, scratching poles, showers and special attractions for the visitors and zoo keeper to interact with the animals. All animal’ requirements need to be met to reach an ultimate happiness in your zoo. To check if the animals are happy or to check up on their needs, you can ping it to get an overall view of all animals in the zoo and their status. But focusing on the animals in one habitat with the info panel is much better to check specific needs such as food refill, social needs or perhaps the habitat isn’t that suitable for the animal. By checking an animal one by one, the view zooms in only on the animal and it’s magnificent to watch how the designers did a truly excellent job on research on animal behaviors and looks.

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Although the training mode will take hours to complete, all the tricks are learned to become a great Zoo Tycoon, with animal and financial management knowledge (advertising, costs increase / decrease, ticket price) . I admit that building and maintaining a zoo and prioritize the animal needs is the most fun but without income and money it’s not possible to expand the fun with even more animals which can be unlocked. The main factor still is to attract as much guests as possible by building a zoo with satisfied animals to raise income. Earn money when guests pay admission fees, spending money at concession stands, and making donations to help care for the animals. Extra bonuses can be earned by getting rewards from various organizations and extra content can be unlocked by increasing the zoo famous level. And the more it rises, the better the financial state of your zoo will be(come).

Besides animal habitats, you can build small habitats for small animals without any exhibit items, decorations concessions, facilities to train staff, breeding center, zoo keeper center, and restrooms to name a few. Not all is available from the start though, as it is not unlocked yet or simply too expensive to buy (or are you willing to gamble that the investment will be worthwhile?). Anyway a lot of decorations, habitats and concessions will become available and are easily to rotate and place where enough space is. The color of the selected habitat, decoration or facility will stay red if it doesn’t fit on the preferred location. As soon as it turns green, you can place it. Automatically paths are also placed, how convenient!

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If you have no patience to go through all levels in training mode, choose to play Freeform, Challenge or Campaign Mode. Freeform mode is interesting for any gamer who doesn’t want to be limited by money and possibilities. Money is no object, and you can create a zoo without limits. It’s a kind of sandbox playing mode. Animals and zoo items are unlocked when the zoo reaches certain zoo fame levels. However some special animals can only be unlocked by reaching zoo fame levels in Challenge Mode. And speaking of, in Challenge mode you start with limited funds, but can build your zoo your way and overcome the various challenges of zoo management. This is where you prove your zoo-keeping skills and can go wild. My favorite gaming mode is the Campaign mode. This is the place for real Zoo keepers to prove themselves (or show off). Play through 15 scenarios-based zoos in six categories to become the ultimate Zoo Tycoon. Completing each scenario will reward you with a unique item to use in your Challenge and Freeform zoo. It’s challenging and triggering all of your zoo keeper techniques!

From a female point of view, it’s possible to choose a female zoo keeper and customize the hair color / type, face and outfit. It’s very limited though, for example four hair types, four face types, seven total outfits (shirt and short trouser) and six hair colors (black however not included) and certainly no dip-dye hairstyle!

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Playing Zoo Tycoon felt like an emotional rollercoaster gaming experience; starting with the slow, low rewarding training mode which took way too long to learn all the details of how to become a true Zoo Tycoon. But in the end it paid off in the challenge and campaign mode, the modes to prove that you’ve got the skills to beat any challenge and build / maintain the best zoo of the world. An extra gaming mode is racing around in a buggy and don’t worry about guests as you cannot hit them. Besides the training mode, it’s hard to state any negative besides that the text on screen is (too) small and only one research at a time is possible to unlock new facilities, decorations, animals, and habitats to name a few. Just like the training mode, patience will be rewarded in the end, when playing the more challenging modes. Controlling a Zoo Tycoon game was never as easy as in this version, which is a big plus and the focus lies more on the management skills of animals and finance. Rewarding is completing any challenge, unlocking new facilities and animals, increasing Zoo fame and simply taking the time to walk through your virtual zoo, enjoy how animals behave and even interact with them by feeding an elephant or washing a rhino. Don’t forget to take pictures to treasure the perfect zoo moments!