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Zoo Tycoon 2 PC CD-ROM

Published by Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by Blue Fang Games
Release Date: Out Now
Price £29.99

There's been a boat load of 'Tycoon' games over the last few years and most have been rubbish. One that definitely wasn't rubbish though was Zoo Tycoon. The first strategy game to allow you to run your own zoo was not only an enjoyable game but was also a surprise hit with gamers. One of the possible reasons for the games success was that it was straightforward to play and appealed to gamers young and old. The game had a gentle pace and it was a game that was comfortable to play for people who had never really played this kind of strategy game before. The more difficult scenarios were challenging enough for strategy veterans so essentially there was something for everyone. Can Zoo Tycoon 2 be just as popular?

The first major difference you'll find in Zoo Tycoon 2 is the graphics. The first game used fairly detailed 2D graphics but Zoo Tycoon 2 is now in full 3D. The graphics aren't overly complex but they are nice all the same. The game has 3 different modes for you to play. There's the Challenge Game which allows you to pick a world location and a map size and then create your own zoo. As you play the game you'll be offered challenges which you can accept or decline. For instance if you purchase a male camel you may be asked if you want to loan a female camel for a short while and attempt to breed the two. If you're successful you'll get to keep both mother and child but if not you'll have to return the female and pay a penalty. The challenges vary in difficulty but essentially it's a nice random mode to have. The Freeform Game is basically a sandbox mode where you have an endless supply of money and everything (animals and equipment etc.,) is unlocked for you to use. It's great for just seeing what can be done in the game. Finally there's the Campaign mode which begins with the tutorials and progresses on to five campaigns and a stand alone scenario called 'The Mysterious Panda'. The campaigns range from 'Zookeeper in training', which is basically an extension to the tutorials, to 'Conservation Programs' which will fully test your zoo keeping skills. Combined the Campaign mode offers 18 scenarios which should keep you busy for a while.

As in Zoo Tycoon your objectives are to keep your animals happy, keep your visitors happy and make as much money as you can. Staff need to be hired, research needs to be carried out and a careful study of what the animals really need has to be made. The game provides all the feedback you'll need to make informed choices and the games tutorials do a good job of walking you through every aspect of the game. As before you can call on the help of a zookeeper's recommendation to look after your animals properly. He'll let you know exactly what the animal in question prefers and following his advice will always put you on the right track to making and keeping your animals happy. A Zoopedia has also been included giving you valuable, and more detailed, information. The Zoopedia contains information taken from the Microsoft Encarta program so you can be sure you're actually getting factual information about the animals in question.

As we've already mentioned Zoo Tycoon 2 sees the series move into full 3D. The graphics themselves are easy on the eye but aren't as wonderfully detailed as they could have been. However Blue Fang have kept the system requirements fairly low for Zoo Tycoon 2 and creating superb looking environments and animals might have pushed the game beyond the capabilities of most systems out there and that would have been a fatal mistake. The animals do look good though and they animate quite well too. The graphics would definitely appeal to the younger gamers out with their colourful appearance and almost cartoon like quality. The camera has also been kept simple and never becomes an annoyance. It can be rotated and you can zoom in on the action but you can't really alter the pitch of the camera and as a result it's easy for anyone to control and never becomes cumbersome to manage. Zoo Tycoon 2 also allows you to walk around your own zoo in a first person mode and take photographs that can be stored in your own photo album. This is actually a nice touch and it allows you to see the zoo from the perspective of one of your visitors.

Zoo Tycoon is completely deaf gamer friendly. All information within the game including mission objectives, the tutorials and the Zoopedia etc., is in text. There are no problems at all, which is absolutely excellent. If you were a fan of Zoo Tycoon you'll love what's on offer here. What makes Zoo Tycoon so special is that it succeeds on more than one level. It's an enjoyable strategy game and is also an introductory learning tool for anyone interested in the animals within the game. Children will love being able to look after the animals and they will actually learn something valuable in the process too, which can't be said for many games out there. Hardcore strategy gamers might find the game a little easy but there's a lot of gamers out there that will love the more relaxed pace and forgiving difficulty level of the game. It's one of the few mainstream games that can actually be appealing to all members of the family and that says a lot.

Overall Game Rating: 8.2/10
Zoo Tycoon 2 is a successful sequel that will please fans of the first game. It's also one of the few strategy games out there that can appeal to all members of the family and for that alone it deserves praise.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Absolutely fine for deaf gamers.