Following the success of the 2001 release of Zoo Tycoon, and the 2 expansion packs that followed, Blue Fang Games, whose founders were former Papyrus Design Group developers, was tapped to continue Microsoft’s Zoo series with Zoo Tycoon 2. The original Zoo Tycoon, much like some of the other ‘Tycoon’ games, opened a niche market for the creation and management of real-world entertainment venues, with the fresh angle of including animal selection, breeding and maintenance.
This game follows closely the game play and interface of the original, where the gamer takes the role of planner and manager of a zoological park. Your primary goal is to build a zoo that customers will come and spend money, have an enjoyable experience, and leave happy. The happier your guests leave, the greater the fame of your zoo. The fame of your zoo determines the number of guests you attract, as well as the extra opportunities you have to earn extra money or take in unique animals from other zoos.
The gameplay options allow for several different types of games: campaign, challenge, and freeform games. Campaign games teach you how to play the game, and help you in building your skill as a successful zoo operator, through a variety of economic or animal husbandry goals. Challenge games force you to start a zoo under severe limitations, such as extremely low funding or a small range of animals to begin your zoo with. Lastly is the freeform game which allows you to build a masterpiece zoo without the limitations of a budget.
Once I had completed a few of the campaign style games, I moved into a challenge scenario where I was placed in charge of a new zoo in North America which began with limited funding and a small range of animals to begin the zoo with. The zoo building process is relatively simple. You select the animal you want adopt for your zoo, and when that animal is selected you can then see the options you have for caring for this animal. The game displays the types of fencing that work best to contain this animal, the environment (or biome, as the game refers to it) is best suited to support the animal, as well as the types of food, toys and shelter the animal will thrive on. You can deviate from these selections, but most animals are happiest when in a sample of their natural habitat.
Once you’ve added an animal, you can choose a mate for the animal to begin a breeding program for this animal. The game alerts you when the animal becomes pregnant or lays an egg. When a baby is born, the game signals you with a beam of light from the sky, letting you know there’s a new addition to your zoo family.
As you build a selection of animals for the guests to see, you also need to build facilities to entertain them and meet their basic needs. Visitors to your zoo will want food, shelter, restroom facilities, and places to rest. Part of meeting the needs of your guests comes from having a wide variety of food and drink options as well as picnic tables, play areas for children, and souvenir shops, as well as some of the more advanced structures, such as fountains and archways.
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