The world’s most powerful gaming console, the Xbox One X, has recently launched and along with its launch came a plethora of up-scaled games to play, amongst which was Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection. Zoo Tycoon is a sim based game where the player takes control of a zoo, set with the standard sim game tasks of managing and building. Players will also need to populate their zoo with animals from around the world.
For those who might have played the Zoo Tycoon series, compared to its previous instalments, Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection offers players much larger zoos to manage and build and with it being an up-scaled game for the Xbox One X, the new 4K graphics and in game attention to detail have all been tweaked. As a result the daily running of your zoo will look and feel more impressive. Unfortunately with every upside there’s normally a downside. With Zoo Tycoon it’s that the load times between screens are a tad longer than expected for a game like this and at one point I was actually able to get up, make a cup of tea and return before my zoo had even loaded!
“New to sim gaming or Zoo Tycoon? No problem! You can start with an in-depth tutorial mode”
Jumping into a game in Zoo Tycoon is exceptionally simple. Upon start up you’re welcomed by a clean and comprehensive main menu through which you’re able to select your chosen game mode. There are three main game types to choose from, Campaign, Free Mode and Challenge. New to sim gaming or Zoo Tycoon? No problem! You can start with an in-depth tutorial mode. This is a forth game option on the menu and is a bunch of small scenarios that are designed to help you grasp the controls and the basics of running your zoo. I found myself doing only a handful of these before jumping right into the game’s campaign mode.
Campaign will have you managing pre built zoos all over the world, being set tasks and goals to achieve. It’s simple enough and the time spent in tutorial isn’t lost as controls are intuitive and extremely simple to grasp, although the menus seem needlessly complicated by comparison. For those looking for more of a challenge than what is offered up in campaign mode, then you should try Free Mode which is a no constraints, no challenges, build your own zoo style of game. This mode allows players complete freedom to design and build their zoo from the ground up.
Free mode means you’ll need to pay much more attention to micromanaging your zoo, such as ensuring correct pricing to allow for more people to visit all the while making sure operating costs are covered with enough profit to allow for new enclosures, day to day running costs and more animals. Also while you’re worrying about day to day running costs you’ll need to think about things like staffing, cleaning of enclosures and general zoo items to keep patrons happy.
Sadly as much as you’ll need to micromanage in Free Mode, none of the game’s modes (Career, Free Mode or Challenge) are going to offer the average gamer much of a real challenge. However for those who love the basics of sims like construction and planning, or for those looking for a cute and kitschy game to relax with, Zoo Tycoon will most definitely hit the mark.
Getting back to the issue though, it’s the absence of any real challenge (which is clearly obvious from the onset) in these game modes that lets Zoo Tycoon down when it should shine. Where in most sim games things go from calm to ‘all hell breaks loose’ in the blink of an eye, here in Zoo Tycoon it’s all a bit simple. Once you’ve hired a few staff to automate and maintain the basic functions of your zoo, food control, facility maintenance and customer happiness, all that’s essentially left for you the player to do after building and setting up your zoo is meet and complete a bunch of specific requests set out in the tasks menu.
The simplicity of the experience doesn’t mean that the game isn’t worth playing though. While it has its faults, its biggest redeeming factor is in fact its biggest draw card, the animals! There’s a literal zoos worth of wondrous and exotic animals to be found in Zoo Tycoon, such as our very own Koalas from here in Australia to Red Pandas from the Eastern Himalayas and South Western China. And the animals have been recreated with extreme care and an eye for detail. The animations are particularly impressive and the behaviours of the animals in their enclosures are very realistic.
Another amazing and particularly cool feature of the game is the Zoopedia, which gives you plenty of detailed information about the 200 plus animals found in the game. This does mean that the game boarders on edutainment and makes it the perfect investment sim for parents to purchase for their children or for the learned sim gamer!
The games last redeeming feature is found with its four-player multiplayer mode, where players can manage zoos together, trading animals with each other and participating in a bunch of crazy mini games, interacting with animals and causing havoc throughout your zoo. All of these things increase the scope of this title making it a fun game for all ages.
- 100s of Animals that are adorable and visually stunning
- The Play Anywhere support works great!
- It's the right time to see this title remastered
- Extravagant load times, particularly on Xbox One
- Lack of difficulty, can boarder on dull
Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection may be just another gaming sim brought to console but graphically, Zoo Tycoon is a welcome addition to the new 4K line up. Whilst the most challenging aspect you’ll likely come across in the game is its controls, this can easily be rectified by its Play Anywhere ability and booting it up on your windows 10 compatible PC or laptop. This is where the game shines some more as nothing beats a mouse and keyboard for sims, it also reduces some of the game’s horrible loading times (although not much).
All in all, despite its shortcomings, it’s a fun little title to be remastered for the Xbox One X. So if you’re looking for your next sim fix or just a game that will let you play with, feed and cuddle some adorable zoo animals, then this is most definitely the one for you.