Zoo Tycoon Xbox One Review:
When shown next to the likes of Dead Rising 3, Battlefield 4 and Killer Instinct, Zoo Tycoon seemed an odd addition to the Xbox One launch line-up. It’s not a traditional kids’ title or an in-depth strategy game. It doesn’t showcase the Kinect sensor in any spectacular fashion, nor is it a well established franchise on the Xbox 360. It is, however, very endearing and peaceful, the perfect game for a chilled out Sunday afternoon, a good natured learning tool for children, and an altogether positive experience.
The most engaging and interesting parts of Zoo Tycoon revolve around the animals themselves. There are lots of species available to adopt and home in your zoo in large and small exhibits, and some species even allow you to interact using the Kinect sensor. It’s unfortunate that it isn’t possible to interact with all animals in this way as it’s incredibly fun to pull faces at monkeys, wink at tigers, and roar at lions and watch them mimic your movements. The Kinect sensor starts to come into its own here but the limited interactions mean the novelty wears off pretty quickly. Young children in particular will delight in this feature which is reminiscent of Kinectimals. You can also feed or wash most animals which is insanely cute at times – the giraffes and bears are particularly adorable. In fact, many of the best experiences happen at ground level, since there is something deeply satisfying about getting up close and personal with the animals in the zoo, taking photos and enjoying your park as soothing music plays in the background. Interacting with the animals and keeping them happy will help them level up over time, too. Any animal that reaches level 15 can be released into the wild as part of your conservation efforts. The game will then regularly update you with the animal’s welfare which is a really sweet addition. Knowing the elephant you released has integrated into a wild herd or given birth to babies of her own adds a sense of pride and achievement.
Lots of things are done very well in Zoo Tycoon. The animals have real character and the educational elements are delivered in perfect, bite size chunks. You can lose hours just walking around the zoo, taking photographs and enjoying the animal interactions. Initially there is genuine delight when a new species or enclosure type is unlocked but unfortunately, this wonder wears off all too quickly.
The simulation and zoo building feel too limited and unchallenging to hold the interest of adult gamers and may prove to be too uninteresting for the youngest players, which really limits the long term appeal of this title. Although Zoo Tycoon can be incredibly cute and charming, it lacks the depth and variety that would elevate it beyond being a temporary distraction.