Review in Progress: Zoo Tycoon

Let there be lemurs!

Sometimes, when you're looking for a new source of meaning in your life, you buy a zoo. If you can't quite afford to do that, you might settle for watching the film We Bought a Zoo. Or, if you want the experience of managing a zoo without having to clean up actual animal poop, you can pick up the new Zoo Tycoon for the Xbox One. I've been building zoos and adopting animals in this accessible, family-friendly management sim for the past few days, but I'm not quite ready to weigh in with a full review, since multiplayer functionality won't be available until a day-one patch. Still, I wanted to give you a sense of how my adventures in the exciting world of zoo management have been going.

Zoo Tycoon made a very positive first impression. Within minutes of firing up the game and diving into the first tutorials, I'd experienced the magic of feeding an elephant and the silliness of speeding around a zoo in a buggy that looks like a tiger. Seriously, the buggy has a handbrake! You can burn rubber in that thing! And as long as you're in this ground-level "zoo view," doing things like watching lemurs frolic or trying to take a perfect snapshot of an adorable baby chimpanzee, Zoo Tycoon is wonderfully charming. Animals behave in ways that are authentic and endearing, which makes your zoo a wonderful place to spend a little time.

Watching animals interact with toys and with each other is the best part of Zoo Tycoon.

But the nitty-gritty business of building and managing your zoo is mostly done from the overhead "tycoon view," and I'm finding this aspect of the game less successful. Aside from the 10 tutorials, there are three ways to play Zoo Tycoon: Freeform mode, which gives you unlimited money; Challenge mode, which doesn't; and Campaign mode, which presents you with a series of specific goals and time limits.

The interface leaves some things to be desired.

Whichever way you opt to play the game, you spend a lot of time placing habitats for animals in your zoo, and these habitats almost always require feeding stations, cleaning stations, and, ideally, some sort of toy or activity to keep the animals occupied. The process of clicking through menus to place these things in exhibits quickly becomes time-consuming and tiresome, and it wasn't long before I wished that I were playing the game on a PC with an interface that let me quickly click on slots in habitats and plop my desired object down with the press of a hotkey. There are Kinect voice commands for just about everything in the game, but in my testing thus far, these have been wildly inconsistent, and certainly haven't been a substitute for a proper hands-on interface.

At this point, I love the animals that populate my zoos, and appreciate the accessibility of Zoo Tycoon's concepts, which make the needs of your animals and your guests very clear so that you can quickly focus on addressing them. But I'm finding that the game's interface brings some tedium to what should be a breezy process of managing a fantasy zoo. Still, this isn't my last word on the game, and as I make my way through some of the more challenging scenarios in Campaign mode and continue to see what I can do with the unlimited money of Freeform mode, my feelings may change. Check back for my full review after the game's release!

Written By

Want the latest news about Zoo Tycoon?

Zoo Tycoon

Zoo Tycoon

Follow

Discussion

16 comments
hystavito
hystavito

Disappointing but expected.  I was considering this game but I suspected the management stuff was going to be weak and/or annoying due to controls.  I think the Kinect aspect of petting and feeding animals was the main focus, basically a kid's game.

Unfortunate too, since people with children had hoped it would be a great game for both them (the management part) and their kids.

bmart970
bmart970

It seems like this lacks the creativity aspect that the originals did so well. It seems that it's to focused on interacting with the animals instead of building a zoo. It's too bad because I really enjoyed the originals.

RacoonEater
RacoonEater

The best Xbox One game so far. *If you are a human being*

IceAxe18
IceAxe18

I would love for this game to be on PC.

sakaixx
sakaixx

seen the previews they dumb down the management aspect , the bared menu and simplify the placements . this ain't looking good if it involve "simplify" . . . other than that the buggy looks fun and can do driff and burnouts (lol) ,you can call elephant and feed em and friendly atmospere, definitely recommending to my cousin for their kids

HesamB
HesamB

I'm really starting to hate publishers for not releasing their games on PC . ....UHHHHH I'm loosing it ...

SandRunneR
SandRunneR

No PC release makes me a sad panda. I love the previous games in the franchise.

Elite_Bushido
Elite_Bushido

i was really hating on this game but that stream yesterday changed my mind about it and Ryse. im gonna get Ryse but i might wait for this on PC on a Steam sale or somethin, looks decent

Stevo_the_gamer
Stevo_the_gamer moderator moderator

I own and enjoy all the Zoo Tycoon games on PC (especially the original and expansions), so I'm really curious to see how the Xbox One version manages to perform. Thanks for the short snippet Carolyn! 

dmastor
dmastor

I love that fact that gamespot is not quick yo review games they make sure they get every layer possible why i respect there scores the most

erani_1111
erani_1111

@Sundberg_man As you might guess, PC doesn't create enough revenue. And that's mainly because of software piracy. People don't bother paying for games, then wonder why no one wants to make them.

ratchet200
ratchet200

@Sundberg_man Was thinking the exact same thing. Simulation games like this are just born to be on PC, not on console with some clunky interface that's impossible to use with a controller.

Kefka-
Kefka-

I was hoping this would be released for pc, perhaps after some exclusivity period ends? While the reviews have been luke warm(and it sounds like that is how Carolyn is leaning), I would guess many of the complaints could be rectified in a later to be released pc version. I really like the idea of creating a zoo that I then can walk around in and interact with the animals in it, as well as learn a thing or two. The concept sounds great...

Onallion
Onallion

@erani_1111 @Sundberg_man Complete nonsense. It is not on PC because Microsoft needed more exclusives for their new console, plain and simple.