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ups: good variety in animals and zoo templates
downs: awkward controls, poor graphics, no music

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Zoo Tycoon DS Review
game: Zoo Tycoon DS
two star
posted by: George Holomshek
publisher: THQ
developer: THQ
ESRB rating: E (Everyone)
date posted: 08:59 AM Tue Nov 22nd, 2005
last revision: 11:06 PM Mon Nov 21st, 2005

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Click to read.I have always enjoyed the Zoo Tycoon series. Running my very own zoo and putting a bunch of cool animals in it just brings out the kid in me. So when I found out I would be able to do this wherever I wanted on my DS, I was pretty excited. Well, lets just say I\'m not too excited anymore. Zoo Tycoon DS is a prefect example of great plan, bad execution.

Let\'s start with the interface. It\'s not that Zoo Tycoon doesn\'t make enough use of the stylus and screens, but the fact that it uses them so inefficiently. The view of your zoo is always on the top screen, forcing you use the D-pad to navigate your zoo and to select different tiles or objects. This process makes deleting small objects far more annoying than it should be and becomes especially painful when you are trying to lay a path. If you didn\'t appreciate the fact that the DS had a stylus by now, this will probably show you why you should. Why you aren\'t able to manipulate your zoo with the stylus is beyond me. What the touch screen is instead used for is going through menus to select animals or objects and for viewing your budget.

The touch screen is also used for laying fences and changing terrain; unfortunately, even these seemingly intuitive processes can be confusing and awkward. When you select to lay fencing or alter terrain, a movable green grid appears on the top screen, being represented on the touch screen as nothing more than a green grid on black. With no zoo objects represented on the touch screen, it can be tough to tell where you are laying fence or exactly which tiles\' terrain you are changing. Being able to swap the zoo map between the top and bottom screens would drastically improve the interface, unfortunately we are going to have to wait for Zoo Tycoon DS 2.

Occasionally you find a game in which great graphics help take your mind off of the bad gameplay. This is not one of those games. This game pretty much shows you what boring looks like in DS form. There is essentially no personality to be found anywhere; the character animations suck, and the animals are poorly detailed. Don\'t get me wrong, you can tell a giraffe from a monkey, but there is little point in having more than one type of big cat in your zoo. And since we\'re on the topic of boring, don\'t get your hopes up for anything coming out of your DS\'s speakers. Beyond the title screen, there is no music to be found in Zoo Tycoon. That\'s right, none. All you will ever hear is an occasional bird chirp or other random animal sound.

One thing you will find in this game is decent variety in terms of animal selection and park types. Though you have to work too hard to unlock all of them, there are 50 animals to choose from as well as a large variety of other goodies to enhance your zoo and make it more enjoyable for your visitors and animals, and more profitable for you. You also still care for your animals by assigning zookeepers to each exhibit. But for whatever reason, you cannot assign a single zookeeper to cycle through multiple exhibits. Thus you either need to hire a new zookeeper for each exhibit or manually move the ones you have whenever your animals need attention.

Zoo Tycoon does offer a little variety in terms of play modes. With free-form mode you take an empty zoo and go nuts with it. You can choose from a wide range of empty zoos to play with, along with setting your starting funds anywhere from $10,000 up to half a million dollars, far more than enough to build the most elaborate zoo you can imagine. You can also play 18 different scenarios, including 3 tutorials, with the challenges ranging from \"beginner\" to \"very advanced\". Yet even these are flawed in their own way. All of the scenarios have a set time limit, usually 30 minutes. Unfortunately once you do meet the requirements of the scenario, several of which can be beat in well under 15 minutes, you have to sit and wait for time to run out.

For those gamers out there who are fanatics for the series, Zoo Tycoon DS will at least be worth a play and may provide some entertainment for at least a little while. For everyone else, the flaws of this game more than outweigh any bright spots. Gameplay can be cumbersome and unnecessarily tedious, the graphics are lackluster at best, and the total lack of audio just leaves us scratching our heads. What we are finally left with is a game that had great potential but in the end falls flat on its face.

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