Zoo Tycoon is an exceptional simulation game that allows children to build and manage their very own zoo. At players' disposal are plenty of exhibit and zoo materials, such as waterfalls and hotdog stands, with which to create unique zoo setups. Zoo Tycoon includes more than 40 zoo animals from tigers to giraffes all waiting for a perfect home in the zoo. And this is where some of the game's educational value is strongest: players need to set up exhibits that make sense for the zoo animals. It doesn't take long before players discover that their giraffes will need more than just sandy terrain. Replacing the sand with grassy terrain will help, and a water hole makes sense too. Hiring a zookeeper is a vital step simply because the zookeeper offers important advice about appropriate shelter, terrain, and foliage for the animals.
There are plenty of other details that need attention as children build their customized zoo. While players are busy creating a suitable exhibit for their giraffes, for example, they might notice that the zoo's visitors have been throwing their trash on the ground. The next logical step is to purchase and position trash cans throughout the grounds. Players can see their guests' thoughts (one guest might be thinking, "I really like this candy bar!" while another's thought bubble reads, "I wish I had a place to throw my trash!"). As children progress, new animals and objects are added to their inventory. Decisions range from pure aesthetics (changing the color of the drink stand, for example) to essential economics (changing the prices of the drinks).
The program is exceptionally easy to use. Although tutorials are available, our testers jumped right in and learned to play by trial and error.
The Zoo Tycoon Marine Mania Double Expansion Pack adds exceptional value to Zoo Tycoon. With this expansion pack (which also contains the previously released Dinosaur Digs Expansion Pack), players can expand upon their existing land exhibits to include exhibits for marine animals and even prehistoric animals. There are polar bears, California sea lions, killer whales, dolphins, and more marine animals that add value (and details!) to the zoo. Marine animals can perform tricks and players can create fun aquatic shows for the zoo's guests. Prehistoric animals include the likes of iguanodons and velociraptors. Instead of adopting an adult dinosaur, players adopt dinosaur eggs.
With the expansion pack, children need to toy with a host of new variables such as the salinity of water in tank exhibits and filtration concerns. On the other hand, new features are added that make maintaining the zoo a little easier. For example, players can now assign maintenance workers to specific tasks and "pick up" guests in order to move them to a more desirable spot in the zoo. Players can now add tanks to their land exhibits for animals that enjoy swimming.
Making guests happy, keeping animals well-fed and healthy, and making enough money to maintain the zoo is quite a balancing act but it's a fun and educational undertaking.