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Wildlife Park

Published by KOCH Media
Developed by NovaTrix GmbH
Platform: PC CD-ROM
Released - 12th September 2003
Price : £29.99

A few years ago now we looked at Zoo Tycoon. Zoo Tycoon allowed you to take charge of your own zoo. You had to look after the animals and customers alike. The animals had to be satisfied by pairing them up with mates and making sure their enclosures met the correct conditions. It was a very enjoyable game, not perfect but still enjoyable and very popular with sales hitting the million mark earlier this year. Wildlife Park, by NovaTrix, is for all intents and purposes very similar although it becomes obvious with extended play that it's not same. Let's take a look at Wildlife Park.

With this game being so similar to Zoo Tycoon I had to go back to Zoo Tycoon and for the sake of fairness play the game without the two expansion packs. Statistically speaking Wildlife Park is rather more impressive than Zoo Tycoon. It offers more animals and more buildings and it is fair to say that in many respects Wildlife Park takes things that little bit further than Zoo Tycoon. Of course it still boils down to keeping both the animals and customers happy but here it isn't quite as easy.

Like most single player only strategy games, there is no multiplayer mode in Wildlife Park, the main focus of the game is the campaign. Wildlife Park includes 20 campaign scenarios. The first 4 of these scenarios though are tutorials and scenarios 5-7 are very basic, while these won't really offer any kind of challenge, they help to reaffirm what you have learnt. The other 13 scenarios range from fairly easy to downright difficult and will have you proving your zoo keeping abilities in a wide range of environments.

In some respects Wildlife Park is more of a simulation than Zoo Tycoon. In Zoo Tycoon you always felt that is was simply a case of satisfying the animals and then after that it was straight forward. Of course it could occasionally be tricky but generally you created the correct environment for an animal and you were all set. In Wildlife Park the animals are more difficult to please. They even get the urge to mate, tussle, climb and swim amongst other things that they would do in real life. You'll also have to keep an eye on your staffs' happiness. Speaking of which there are 10 different staff types in Wildlife Park and these range from animal keepers to refuse centre workers.

When you're done with the campaign, which will take a while, you have Free Play mode to take on. In Free Play mode you pick 1 of 20 territories (that include the likes of Central Europe, Florida, Serengeti, Russia and China), an amount of money to begin with and a difficulty level before attempting to create the ultimate zoo. There are 3 difficulty levels. Easy allows you an unlimited overdraft and there will be no demonstrations and animals cannot die; medium will only allow a limited overdraft and demonstrations can occur if you don't look after your animals but your animals cannot die; hard really makes you sweat as your overdraft is limited, demonstrations can occur if you don't look after your animals and your animals will die if they are neglected.

One of the key areas where Wildlife Park clearly improves upon Zoo Tycoon is landscaping. In Zoo Tycoon the landscaping options were very basic. Even with the Marine Mania expansion installed everything still remains basic. If you build a tank for an aquatic animal you simply place down the walls and it automatically fills with water. In Wildlife Park it's more sophisticated. Once you've placed the outside walls you'll have to lower the ground within the tank and then you'll have to place a water pump in order for the tank to fill. This may seem like it's making life more difficult for the gamer but in actual fact it's giving you the ability to create elaborate waterfalls and multi-tiered enclosures. Take a look at the screenshots to the right of this review and you'll see the kind of impressive landscapes that just aren't possible in Zoo Tycoon.

Graphically Wildlife Park is perhaps as good as any other 2D isometric strategy game out there. The animals look and move perfectly well too which is always pleasing in a game of this nature. The ability to create elaborate waterfalls and multi-tiered landscapes also give the game something extra. You can zoom in and zoom out if you wish. Zooming in gives a horrible pixelated appearance though and does nothing but make things look ugly. Zooming out though is useful if you want to take an overall look of your zoo but I suspect most people won't bother with either zooming in or out.

Wildlife Park is fine for deaf gamers. There isn't any speech in the game and all information is given in text. Any messages you receive during the game are displayed at the top of the screen and these messages can be recalled at any time. All tutorial messages are shown in text too. The mission objectives can be recalled at any time which is good because it helps to keep you focused on what needs to be achieved. Information can by displayed on any animal (by simply pressing the 'i' button when an animal is selected) and this helps inform you of what the animal requires to live satisfactorily.

Of course what you are all wondering is if Wildlife Park is a better game than Zoo Tycoon. If you compare Wildlife Park with the original Zoo Tycoon (and ignore the expansion packs) then the answer is yes as it improves on almost everything if only by small amounts. The Zoo Tycoon expansion packs, particularly the Marine Mania expansion, helped fill the game out but even then there's still not much in it. Personally I would pick Wildlife Park because it's more of a challenge and seems to have more of a realistic feel to it, particularly on the hard difficulty level.

Overall Game Rating: 8.9/10
Fans of Zoo Tycoon, and strategy games in general, should definitely give this one a go. Wildlife Park may not be wildly different from Zoo Tycoon but it does things slightly better and is definitely more challenging.

Deaf Gamers comment:
All important information is shown in text and objectives and messages can be recalled at any time.

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