Wildlife Zoo involves the fun and responsibilities that come with running a successful zoo, including animal care, landscaping, staffing, and keeping visitors happy. Terraforming options allow zoo keepers to create dry savannahs, mountain peaks, looming waterfalls, or swampy wetlands, and with over 100 available buildings, items, enclosures, and decorative extras, virtual park designers are equipped to provide paying guests a comfortable wildlife experience that will keep them coming back for more.
I liked the original Zoo Tycoon (released in 2001). It wasn't a great game, but it was challenging, its expansion packs were well made, and it's one of the few tycoon games that I've played that I wouldn't mind going back and playing again someday. But since then the climate has changed. Every zoo tycoon game that has since come out (including Zoo Tycoon 2 in 2004) has been aimed at families and casual gamers, and they've all left me bored. They've been pretty, they've allowed you to build zoos, but that's about it.
Enter Wildlife Zoo. It's the sequel to Wildlife Park (released in 2003) -- the game is actually known as Wildlife Park 2 everywhere except in the United States -- and it's a lot like that earlier game, not to mention all the other zoo tycoon games that have ever come out. You have to build exhibits for animals and keep them happy. You have to build snack bars and souvenir shops and draw in guests and keep them happy, too. You have to collect donations and make money through other means so you can expand your zoo. That should sound familiar, since it's basically a blueprint for all tycoon games and not just zoo ones.
What's different in Wildlife Zoo is that you can also research extinct animals. If you hire a scientist, and if that scientist can find enough fossils and usable genes, then you might be able to reconstruct some animals, like the dodo bird or the wooly mammoth, and build exhibits for them. This gives you a new way to acquire animals (besides adopting them or breeding them)... but it still seemed like a strange addition to me. I'm happy when developers try new things, but this "research" isn't believable, and it doesn't have anything to do with running a zoo, and so I don't think it should have been included in the game.
Otherwise, Wildlife Zoo is about what you'd expect. There are about 50 animals that you can build exhibits for (including half a dozen extinct animals), but the process is trivially easy, and it's no challenge to keep your animals 100% happy. Guests are a little more difficult to please, but not by a lot (plop down a tree, plop down a scenic object, and watch their happiness rise!), and so Wildlife Zoo is basically a game where you're only going to like it if you enjoy looking at animals, even if the animals aren't doing a whole lot.
On the plus side, the included campaign seemed nicer than you might expect. It (sort of) tells the story of you and your father, who also works with animals and zoos, and it contains a few puzzle-like scenarios to go along with the more typical run-the-zoo scenarios. For example, at one point you learn of a farm being terrorized by a giant crocodile, and you have to separate the animals and make them happy. Later, you have to create a Savannah wildlife park without using any man-made objects. Wildlife Zoo's campaign worked better for me than most tycoon game campaigns because there was actually an attempt to link the scenarios together, and because there was a lot of variety to the objectives.
But, overall, there isn't anything to get excited about here. If you've played one zoo tycoon game, then you've played them all, and there isn't any reason to buy Wildlife Zoo unless you really like the genre or unless you haven't played anything in the genre yet. Of course, if you haven't played any zoo tycoon games yet, then I'd recommend the original Zoo Tycoon instead.
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