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Review: Zoo Tycoon – Ultimate Animal Collection

Zoo Tycoon is another Xbox title that has been updated in order to show off the graphical power of the Xbox One X. But unlike the other ports and re-releases for the ‘premium’ console, it hasn’t only been visually upgraded but also received some gameplay changes and additional content.

If you’ve never heard of Zoo Tycoon before, it’s a series that began on PC in 2001 and it tasked you with building and maintaining a zoo, similar to games like Rollercoaster Tycoon. This new game, an enhanced version of 2013’s Zoo Tycoon, aims to add a little more variety and challenge by giving you objectives and time limits. It also adds some additional animals you can keep and train in your park.

If this is your first time playing a Tycoon game, I would highly recommend playing the tutorials first. The game is not overly complicated in terms of mechanics or commands, but it may seem a little overwhelming at first. The tutorials walk you through everything from building exhibits and adopting animals, to more advanced techniques like encouraging breeding and eventually releasing animals into the wild. It even teaches you about wandering around your zoo, either on foot or by calling in and driving a little buggy. The game can be played with the regular controller, but also with the Kinect camera. Take my advice, play with the controller. The Kinect controls are so badly implemented that you’ll become frustrated after the first five minutes. The camera often doesn’t recognize the right time command and takes a little too much time to process it.

You can also walk around in your park
You can also walk around in your park

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the gameplay mechanic, you can start playing the campaigns. There are the original three from the original game, plus two new campaigns that are centered in South America and Australia. These challenges are timed, giving you a deadline to complete a set of objectives as you manage your zoo. These can range from leveling up your zoo to foster breeding within a specific species. The difficulty curve of these objectives is very forgiving, probably because this game is aimed toward encouraging a more fun experience for all players instead of a tough challenge for veterans.

Speaking of fun, the Sandbox mode is designed to let players loose without any restrictions or objectives, as it gives you unlimited funds. This more relaxed approach allows players to just go at their own pace. If the tutorials didn’t help you enough with the micromanaging mechanics, then I suggest playing the Sandbox Mode before tackling the campaigns.

This Ultimate Animal Collection may not be a new game, simply enhancing the visuals a bit and adding South American and Australian animals and challenge scenarios, but it does offer a fun and colorful experience nonetheless. But while it does look good and is fun to play, the standard Xbox One version framerate is quite poor at times. Both the Xbox One and Xbox One S version run at 1080p/30fps, but only the Xbox One S manages to maintain that framerate. The Xbox Play Anywhere feature is a good alternative to play the game if you have a standard Xbox One, since the PC version runs smooth as butter with its 60fps cap. The Xbox One X version runs at a 4K resolution with a framerate of 30fps, which looks great, especially with the HDR function turned on.

The upgraded visuals make the game look great
The upgraded visuals make the game look great

Conclusion

Zoo Tycoon – Ultimate Animal Collection is another decent port of an Xbox game, especially with its newly added content. Fans of Tycoon games will probably enjoy this game, although it’s a little too easy in my opinion. Both the Xbox One S and X versions look great with a solid framerate, but the original Xbox One version performs a little worse on the already outdated hardware.

7/10

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