Zoo Tycoon initially unleashed itself on the Xbox platform in 2013 to mixed views, thanks to a mixed implementation of the classic Tycoon style of the game to the console’s controls. Now it has been re-released with more Zooing in the Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection.
If you haven’t played Zoo Tycoon before, the gist is it’s a God type game where you look down upon some space, and you use this to build your glorious Zoo. It has the usual trappings, involving managing time and money, as well as Zoo management, to make sure it is as great as it can be.
Traditional fans of the Tycoon games may find something special here thanks to the ability to explore in a third person view, as well as a first-person mode to get close to the animals. This is great to be able to customise the Zoo itself on a macro level, seeing how things look and flow up close.
The graphics are solid, with the bird’s eye view helping it look good as you build, but more importantly, it’s up close. Some animals look a lot better than others, but this isn’t its strength. That’s not to say they look bad, far from it, but if you are wanting 2017 photorealistic graphics, it’s not there, but the fur, especially on the smaller animals like Koalas, is pleasing to the eye.
There is value in the game as an educational tool as well, with kids exploring and managing different creatures, and a Zoopedia. Admittedly, this will be redundant for people who will Wikipedia animals as they play, but I read a lot of interesting snippets about different animals as I played, enhancing my time.
The most entertaining, and time-consuming way to play is in Sandbox mode. This is the classic style of building to your heart’s content until you have the glorious zoo you have always dreamed of. You get unlimited money and must concentrate on managing time, and your enclosures. It’s satisfyingly relaxing to maintain the attractions, though cleaning the enclosures can be a pain when you want to expand and explore.
If unlimited freedom isn’t your thing, there is challenge mode. These challenges set you with tasks to complete with time limits, which can vary from getting a Zoo’s level up, to being given a challenge at a time in an established zoo, to breeding certain animals. These get harder, but never too far out of reach.
The main addition has been the expansion of animals, most specifical ones from Australia and South America. If you played the first game, there may be enough to entice you to return, if you didn’t, then it means there are so many more animals to enjoy taking care of.
The game still has Kinect functionality, but without a Kinect to test it out with I can’t say if it improves or not upon the original games ones, which were notoriously unresponsive at times. There is still the three-player co-op, again something I was unable to test out, but it’s there if you do want to check it out.
7.9/10 – Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection is the best version of a fun tycoon game. With the addition of more animals, fans of the original should have reason to dip in again, and people who didn’t get to play it can enjoy the upgraded wonder of managing a zoo the easy way.