Holding my arms out in front of me, I’m using the power of next-generation Kinect to wash a baby elephant with a water hose. My dreams had finally been realised - this should have been the happiest day of my life. Yet it wasn’t. I’d already done this exact routine several times in the last couple of hours to fill the 'social needs' of various animals around my park and ensure my zoo was full of happy customers.
That’s my problem with Zoo Tycoon. I wanted a game about running a successful zoo and this is more about taking photos and pulling faces at chimpanzees. Earning zoo dollars is extremely straightforward and although you may have a slower start in the likes of Challenge Mode - which limits your starting funds - after filling a couple of exhibits, you’ll rarely have to worry about your expenses at all.
Looking across to, for example, RollerCoaster Tycoon, it's easy to see why this game proved disappointing by comparison. It wasn’t difficult to acquire funds in that either, but I had so much fun playing around with utterly unsafe designs for each of my rides and ensuring that my theme park felt like my theme park. Zoo Tycoon gives you only the most basic of options.
Sure you can pick which kind of trees you have and what types of animals to keep, but almost everything else is pre-determined. You can’t build your own enclosures; instead you pick from small, medium or large. You can’t build your own pathways; instead they appear as you place objects and buildings into your zoo.
Maybe I’m not the target market for this and maybe I’m reading too much into the word 'Tycoon', but even looking past that I didn’t have a whole lot of fun. The Kinect interaction, while cute, is less so after repeated animations, and I’m not sure that Zoo Tycoon really knows what it wants to be.
In the end it felt a lot like playing Kinectimals, and that was almost three years ago.
Version tested: Xbox One. Played for 7 hours.
5 / 10
- Playing with the animals is admittedly very charming the first few times.
- It’s a great concept for a family game.
- Where’s the tycoon?
- Lack of customisation.