The original Zoo Tycoon and the massive Zoo Tycoon 2 were some of my favorite games back in the day. I’d call them guilty pleasures, except I was downright shameless about my long play sessions. I could probably pop either of the games into my old desktop right now and play for a good hour just to warm up.
So I was naturally both intrigued and wary when I heard they were going to remake it for the Xbox. I knew there would be a graphical update, and the game doesn’t disappoint. The trees and grass look so fertile I had to pop an antihistamine just watching the demo. But what’s important is how the game compares to the originals.
So what’s the verdict on the new Zoo Tycoon? Well I stopped looking when I saw “Kinect-based minigames.” The Kinect is a niche tool at best, but Microsoft keeps trying to shove it into gameplay somehow, someway.
The original game was exclusive to PCs and Macs, and anything based on a mouse doesn’t do very well with a controller, much less a controller-free sensor. This drawback might be negligible for those who are used to the Kinect, but it still doesn’t fit very smoothly.
Everything in the game is cookie-cutter and disappointing. The exhibits are premade, unlike the first where you could build the most beautiful landscapes your heart desired. You can’t really play with the mechanics the way you could before.
I know it isn’t fair to judge a remake based on the original, but in this case the legacy provides a standard to which this game fails to live up. If a game is called “Zoo Tycoon” and I can’t build my own spectacular exhibits with waterfalls, lush forests and strategically placed food drops, then I will not be enjoying myself.
I commend the game for trying to raise awareness of conservation issues in its own way, but it’s not good enough. Do the planet a favor. Take the money you would have spent on this game and give it to a legitimate conservation society. I recommend The Sierra Club. Also, buy Zoo Tycoon 2: Ultimate Edition. It's more fun than a barrel of monkeys!