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Zoo Tycoon DS Review

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Developer: THQ Publisher: THQ
Release Date: October 10, 2005 Also On: None

Have you ever heard the expression “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”? Evidently, Microsoft holds to that. Microsoft has made quite clear the fact that they intend to overtake Sony in the console war, and they seem to be willing to use any means necessary in order to accomplish that, up to and including teaming up with THQ to release a Tycoon game on the DS. It is my personal opinion that if Microsoft really wanted to help the DS out, they’d have Bungie make a Halo game for it, but such is not the subject at hand. The question that you want answered is “is Zoo Tycoon DS worth my money?”, but to that I can only answer “maybe”.

Why do I say that? I say it because Zoo Tycoon DS, like all games of its type, is a love/hate game that you’ll either love or hate. I was able to tell this from what time I’ve spent playing it. On paper, it should be a must-have: great graphics, tons of options, and a high level of realism, but at the same time there is the high level of patience that is necessary to find the right combinations to accomplish what you need to do, and the fact that to those who aren’t particularly interested in this type of game, it will seem more like work than entertainment.

Anyway, as I said, the graphics in this game are very good. Everything is as detailed as can be expected considering the fact that this is a DS game. The animals, terrain, scenery items, plants, and other things all look like they should. It is obvious that time was put into these graphics. Essentially, I have no major complaints here.

Where my complaints come is the sound, most notably the lack thereof. There is one piece of music in the game on the title screen, and it is very well-written and sounds nice. In the game proper though there are very few sound effects, the most noteworthy being a sad sound when you put the wrong item in an exhibit (you’ll be hearing this sound a lot, especially at first) and a happy sound when you put a right item in an exhibit. These sounds sound nice, but there are just too few of them.

If you’re unfamiliar with this type of game, here’s how it works. You’re given a fairly empty layout of a zoo. You need to put in exhibits with animals that have the combinations of terrain and items to make the animals in the exhibit happy. You need to build paths from the entrance that go by these exhibits. You need to build bathrooms, benches, snack shops, etc. to keep the guests happy. Essentially, you’re trying to build a Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago (quality-wise), and in scenario mode, you’re trying to do it within the confines of criteria that must be met within a certain amount of time. This game doesn’t operate in real-time like Animal Crossing, but rather in its own concept of time, counted in months that each take about ten minutes or so.

The interfaces that you use to place stuff or animals or delete them are fairly straightforward, and for those people to whom they aren’t, there are three tutorials that very effectively go over how to do everything. This means that if you mess up, it’s usually because of you, not because of the controls. The touch-screen is used to good effect in this game, with the actual layout of your zoo on the top screen and all of your option-choosing occurring through the use of the touch-screen, which contributes to the ease of control.

So what are the problems with this game? The death knell to this game for many people will be that it takes a lot of patience to play. You place something in an exhibit and get a sad sound, so you delete that item and keep trying others until you find a right one. As you play the game more, you’ll learn which items to use, but it will take a while, because this game is jam-packed with options, a good thing for those who like this type of game, but a very bad one for those who get impatient easily. Add to that the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, unless you’re into this type of game, it will seem like work, and you have a game that may be liked by some, but is unlikely to have much mass appeal. For those who like this type of game though, the possibilities are nearly endless, and thus a lot of replay value will exist.

What then is my recommendation? If you’ve played tycoon games on the PC or other games of the same type and enjoyed them, you’ll probably enjoy this game also. If you’ve played games of this type and been bored by them, this game won’t change your mind. If you’ve never played a game of this type, try to find some way to play it before you buy it. It is a good game, and you might become hooked on it, but you might not.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 7.2
Written by Martin Review Guide