Remember the first Zoo Tycoon DS? If not, you're lucky. It was a watered down, glitchy port job from the PC that felt more like a way to kill a few minutes than an actual zoo management sim. Thankfully, the same isn't true of the sequel. Zoo Tycoon 2 DS is an involving, relaxing park builder that's literally packed with animals, exhibits, and the management options you need to create and run the wildlife destinations of your dreams.
Forget the pre-fab exhibits from the first game. Now, you get to pick the fences, shrubs, and animals that go into your displays, as well as the exact size of your enclosures. There are dozens of habitats, paths, decorations, and food stalls to choose from. How much you charge for food, drinks, and souvenirs is also up to you. You can even pour money into marketing and research programs. That's a huge upgrade over the first game, which didn't let you tweak the incidentals. As for the animals, take your pick from 36 different species (zebras, monkeys, sea lions, and so on). Generally speaking, Zoo Tycoon 2 DS gives you the freedom to build a tiny zoo or a massive park full of themed exhibits.
All of the various objects and options are accessed by tapping icons situated on the left and bottom edges of the touch screen. Learning the different icons takes time, but the actual process of laying out exhibits is relatively simple. You just drag the stylus to draw the fence boundaries and then tap to place animals and zookeepers into the exhibit. Other tasks, such as planting trees, laying down terrain, and constructing watering holes are handled the same way.
The new zookeeper view lets you interact with the animals in your exhibits. You can watch 3D renditions of camels, penguins, and other beasts lounge around, or you can go hands-on and feed, bathe, and provide medical care to the animals by playing different minigames. The minigames are easy and mainly involve scribbling on the touch screen, but you probably won't mind the repetition since animal happiness is one of the factors you need to keep up in order to draw visitors to the park. Besides, seeing a baby elephant shake its snout after a brushing is too cute.
A bird's eye perspective of the park is afforded by the lower screen, while the upper screen is generally reserved for informational displays. The camera offers three zoom levels, but you can't pull it back very far, so you pretty much have to scroll the screen multiple times whenever you want to lay down a path or a fence. You may also find the graphics and audio too plain for your liking. The animals and people do actually walk around and play. However, the terrain and decorations in the 2D main view are mostly static, apart from some of the more elaborate water tiles and customer stands. Similarly, the audio primarily consists of various jungle-themed background tunes, though you will hear some animal noises when you're in the zookeeper view.
The campaign mode serves up 50 scenarios to challenge your zoo building skills, the total of which will take you anywhere from a few days to a week to complete. You also have the option of linking up with a friend to see who can build the better zoo in real time, as well as to trade zoos. For the most part though, this game is all about gradually building up parks by yourself in the free play mode and relaxing with your creations. If that sounds fun to you, then you'll dig Zoo Tycoon 2 DS.
Feb 12, 2008