Still remember Zoo Tycoon from Blue Fang Games / Microsoft? In the last years almost every real-life experience could be found as a simulation for PC. Blue Fang Games was the first developer to think of a Zoo simulation. They did a good job and in the mean time two successful add-ons – Dinosaur Digs and Marine Mania – were released to the public.
German Developer NovaTrix took up the challenge to compete with Microsoft for the Zoo Sim throne – and the result is sure worth a look.
The goal of the game is to run the best, biggest, most family-friendly yet profitable and animal protecting zoo the world has ever seen. Dear reader – you are not really surprised, are you? As the director you have to keep your eyes on everything. Build a bigger enclosure for the penguins cause new baby penguins are about to hatch, visitors demanding more recreation areas, your bank called twice because you have to pay the mortgage for the zoo estate back and extremistic animal protectors rioting because they believe that tiger Bruno should get a girlfriend. Was that all part of the job description?
Wildlife Park’s interface is not a real innovation. Old school simulation players will likely skip most of the tutorials and start playing. At first the interface perhaps seems a little overloaded compared to other simulations but this is made up by the fact that almost no sub-sub menus can be found which you can whether like or not.
The graphics and music remembered me a lot of Zoo Tycoon but this isn’t a real surprise hence a tiger is a tiger and to my untrained ears all jungle beats sound alike. What I didn’t like is the fact that even in the highest possible resolution creatures, visitors and employes get pixelated if you zoom in but I will overlook this hence you won’t zoom in too often hence you have to overview the whole park and every creature features various detailed animations like eating, hunting, fighting and swimming.
Regarding the 'framework’ of the game – music, controls, graphics and basic gameplay the two rivals are equally good and no winner can yet be announced.
And in this corner...
So why could Wildlife Park be better than the other competitor? Let’s start with the most obvious feature: animals. Wildlife Park features 45 different creatures while Blue Fang comes in second with 41. The expansion packs for Zoo Tycoon each add about 20 animals to the main game but rumours tell that NovaTrix is working on their first add-on too and don’t forget - add-ons cost extra and for us all that counts are the “out-of-the-box” features. We could continue with the number of exhibits, climate zones, different stalls and shops and the different buildings and employs you can buy. It is futile because everyone with a little common sense will know that the competition was well studied before the counter-release was launched. Short and sweet - there is a little more of almost everything.
So let’s begin to move forward from quantity to quality. Noticeable besides the larger amount of animals is the way more specialized staff in Wildlife Park. Besides the obvious animal wardens you can command an armada of workman, gardeners, rangers, nurses, animal trainers, guards, paramedics and dustmen. Everyone is specialist on his field of work but it is your job to make sure that they can do their job! You do so by increasing or reducing the area your employee has to cover. The smaller the better but expensive, too big and your sick kangaroo will die because no nurse was there in time!
Also the animals are not as easy to please as in Zoo Tycoon. With coming of age most animals not only have the urge to pass on their genes (this is a PG rated review) but when getting older they can get sick and aggressive. The enclosure has to be a perfect reproduction of their natural environment and animals want not only to sleep and eat but play as well. Penguins need snow-covered plains all year and snow cannons will do the job, small lakes are a must for some animals if they ever feel the urge to swim and aggressive animals need some toys which they can slap – better than eating your visitors, isn’t it ?
We get close to the reason why I personally like Wildlife Park a little better than Zoo Tycoon. It is not only well thought but it offers more details in every category.
If you still can choose what game to buy or if you are a die-hard Zoo fan you definitely should await the release of this game in your territory. But as always the choice is up to you.