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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: December 5, 2001
For generations, zoos have served as recreational centers of fascination, learning, and enjoyment for kids and adults all over the world. With “tycoon” construction simulation games sprouting up like weeds on the personal computer, it is not at all surprising that someone thought about using live animal exhibits as promising subject matter. Now Blue Fang Games has developed a title for Microsoft — Zoo Tycoon — attempting to capture the essence of this form of entertainment. Depicting with great attention to authenticity the atmosphere of zoos, this release allows you to use your imagination to build a personalized animal kingdom like none ever seen before.
There are key similarities and differences between Zoo Tycoon and other construction simulations, particularly those depicting roller coasters. Considering similarities first, Zoo Tycoon allows you to play a variety of predetermined scenarios, to build primary attractions as well as supporting gift shops and refreshment stands, and to link the quality of your park management to your ability to attract paying customers. Turning to differences, the most important distinction between Zoo Tycoon and other construction simulations is that you manage live animals that are environmentally sensitive, making it easy to put animals in unsuitable surroundings that will make them unhappy, unhealthy, or even frisky enough to jump out of their enclosures and attack zoo visitors. You have to make decisions continuously about how these beasts will respond to different actions and scenarios, thus creating a level of unpredictability not characteristic of other construction simulations.
The goals in Zoo Tycoon are quite straightforward: You play the role of a zoo manager whose mission is to provide a secure and compassionate residence for your creatures, who may exhibit various forms of discomfort from anger to hunger; a fair employment situation for your workers, who may choose to go on strike; and a satisfying and fulfilling experience for your paying customers, who may sometimes be awfully finicky. You have to keep the zoo financially solvent, and the pinnacle of success occurs when you have happy animals and overwhelming crowds of human visitors to see them. Whenever humans or animals become dissatisfied, you end up paying for it, and consistent failure to achieve specified objectives may even cause your zoo to be closed.
The embedded economic model is reasonably realistic. You need to carefully determine the amount visitors pay for entrance fees, food in eateries, and souvenirs in gift shops in such a way that customers will keep coming, yet you will make a profit. You may spend you money on such tasks as building new refreshment stands, conducting research on new innovations, enhancing your existing zoo structures, and publicizing your park. In addition, you need to hire and fire staff members who take care of the animals, operate as tour guides, and maintain the physical condition of the zoo as a whole, making sure that everything is tidy and that people can feed themselves and go to the bathroom as they please. If you try to manage every little detail yourself, you are in for a real challenge; so if you are overwhelmed, you may always assign tasks like taxes and staff wages for automatic management by the computer.
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