Zoo Tycoon 2 DS
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-02-17 Nintendo DS Simulation E (Everyone) THQ / Blue Fang

It's been quite a while since I played Zoo Tycoon 2 for PC, so I'm actually glad I got the DS version to review, or I'd really be missing out.

Zoo Tycoon 2 DS goes along the lines of Sim City DS or Theme Park DS, making the game much more accessible through simple menus and touch controls. Being familiar with the game mechanics and having a whole lot of tycoon experiences, I didn't even look at the game manual and jumped right into the Campaign.

Campaign puts you in the shoes of the zoo manager. This game mode is split into a series of levels, each composed of three scenarios, and starting with a tutorial. You will only unlock the next scenario once you complete the previous one. Completing all three in a level unlocks the next zoo level.

Each of these has specific goals to be met. You begin in the tutorial learning what each menu icon represents and what options appear under them. The basics of the game are simple: build a fenced area, pick a couple of animals (male and female for breeding) and customize the area (biome) to the animals' needs. This is actually really simple, since you can click on the animal to check its status, and there will be a question mark that shows its preferences as far as terrain type, water, trees, decorations and shelter. Do what the hints say and you will have some very happy animals.

As the zoo manager your job isn't only designing, planning and building. You also become responsible for the finances, including entrance tickets, shops and stalls revenue, research funding and advertising budgets. Researching is important, since this is the way to unlock endangered species, new shops, staff skills and even a dolphin show for your zoo.

Furthermore, you can also become a caretaker and play some hands-on mini-games to keep your animals happy. In this so-called zookeeper mode, you get to pet, feed, brush clean the cages, even heal your animals when they're sick. Petting, brushing and cleaning is a lot like bathing a puppy in Nintendogs. Feeding requires you to drag the animals' favorite food to its mouth, while healing is an icon match task.

Taking good care of your zoo and animals will grant you awards and extra funds to spend, and also unlocks animal cards with educational information about a particular animal.

Aside from the Campaign, there is also a Freeform mode where you can build the ultimate zoo to your liking in a laid-back environment with no goals to achieve. A Multiplayer mode is also included allowing you to trade zoos with another player or go head-to-head in a Tycoon Showdown to see who can achieve the most money, guests and exhibits in the end.

One thing I really like in the game is the sound. The music is pleasing and even if it loops, it won't grow annoying. The sound effects are great, really conveying the ambient of a zoo.

Graphically, you have plenty of details to see while playing, but it can get a little tricky when the areas get crowded with guests, as things seem to overlap. But the isometric view looks pretty good and the animals are very well-rendered in zookeeper mode.

Zoo Tycoon 2 DS surprised me quite a bit. It ended up being better than Sim City or Theme Park DS, offer more variety in the gameplay, and three save slots for my games instead of one. It's a really entertaining simulation that fans of the genre will want to give it a try.

Special thanks to Karen Fujimoto and THQ for providing a copy of this game.