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Microsoft's Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species expansion pack focuses on rare animals to add entertainment and adventure to your zoo. The game also provides some additional elements to the gameplay like a jeep safari ride, sky ride, and elevated paths. However, even with these additions, Zoo Tycoon 2: Endangered Species still fails to correct the game's biggest flaw - boredom.
Now I don't use the word "boredom" lightly. I'm a huge fan of tycoon games and the original Zoo Tycoon was one I often played without getting bored. I'm a fan of the series and concept, one that the Roller Coaster Tycoon team apparently found appealing enough to copycat in their Wild expansion (it's said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery).
So how does boredom enter into a game that has awesome graphics, great animals, and cool new additions? It's all about the "Continual Fun Factor" (CFF). I identify the CFF as the ability of a game to keep you entertained and interested for as long as you play the game. Game makers need to always adjust their gameplay to have a great CFF. It fails here.
The inherent problem is that Zoo Tycoon 2 and the expansion, Endangered Species leaves too much "down time" where a user is simply sitting around waiting for their zoo to make enough money to buy something new. And almost as big of a problem is that objects are sorely lacking - great objects worth striving for. For example, there are persistent challenges in Zoo Tycoon 2 and Endangered Species whereas accomplishing scenarios unlocks something new. Well, I'm sorry if I'm not doing cartwheels over striving for a new "flower arch" or "decorated tour gate". These do absolutely nothing to help me accomplish future missions. Try instead to add things like "tour guide staff member" or "miniature train ride" to make these missions worth accomplishing.
Endangered Species tried to tackle this problem by adding a sky tram (about time) and a jeep ride. And both are great additions, especially since you can ride them and have ride elements you can use to add to the excitement (i.e. geyser, volcano, etc.). But the rides don't keep the game player entertained enough because of the lack of things to add to your zoo. For example, why don't the game makers add common sense things like:
But even more important than adding the above, the gameplay of Zoo Tycoon could be drastically improved if there were pop-up challenges in scenario mode. Unexpected challenges, with good rewards, are a great way to alleviate a lot of the boring moments of the game when a player is just waiting for money. These types of challenges and unexpected events are what adds to the fun factor. For example, I had a lot of boring downtime in the sceario where you had to build a five-star zoo that only had endangered animals in it. Many times I'd leave my computer running while I was out running errands, just so that it could build up funds for me to buy another $20,000 animal.
When a player leaves a game running while going to do errands, game makers have not done their job. I should be engaged throughout the entire scenario. Why not throw in challenges during scenario gameplay? "The local paper wants a picture of an animal in your conservation area. Build an elevated platform and take a great photo. The publicity will increase your attendance and guest donations to donation boxes in your conservation area."
Doing challenges like my above example will keep me at the computer playing and reward me for successful completion with guests and donations that will help increase my funds faster.
And that brings us back to new stuff in Endangered Species. This expansion definitely adds more enjoyment than just Zoo Tycoon 2. My favorite thing to do is build a jeep ride that enters a Lion exhibit, but first goes past several fog machines, creating that Jurassic Park feel. It's a ton of fun (especially when riding). But safety mechanisms weren't built into the gates that open and close because I've often had animals escape through a gate opening to allow a jeep in. One Wild African Dog got into my Scimitar-Horned Oryx exhibit this way and killed all the endangered Oryx's before I could say, "what just happened?" Zoo patrons weren't too happy about that. Neither was I.
Ride elements for the jeep and sky ride are fun to add and experience. But the best ones (like like the Volcano and drive-through giant sequoia tree) you don't get until you get your zoo fame up to 4 and half and five stars. And that's another huge inherent problem with this game, which adds to the boredom -- objects are all unlocked exactly the same way in every single game/scenario. When you start off you have wimpy selections, including only a bathroom that takes one person at a time. Huh? I have yet to see a zoo built that basically put guests in outhouses. Microsoft needs to learn to provide true necessities from the beginning, then add more rewarding objects for completing challenges. Enough of this silly "you can't have gorilla bars for kids to play on until your zoo reaches 2 and half stars" stuff. Make the game more fun. Then more people will enjoy it, more people will buy it, and more people will play it.
Endangered Species has conservation areas in many of the zoos that you can't tamper with, but you can put in endangered species that meet the biome requirements. Well, you could put in ones that don't, but they won't be too happy. Neither will your guests. You can't change anything about these areas (trees, biomes, etc.), but you can add food, water, a zoo keeper, etc. So how do guests view these animals. Well, this is another area where the Endangered Species team did something right. In the expansion, you are allowed to build elevated paths that can actually go over exhibits! Not only that, but you can also place buildings and objects on these elevated paths. I have found this to be the best addition to the expansion. It adds an entire new element to gameplay. I can actually connect different parts of my park using these paths and have all the amenities for guests like food, bathrooms, benches, etc. Not only that, but they now have a "birds eye" view of the exhibits. And these elevated paths are a great place to put binocular stands!
Endangered Species is definitely a step in the right direction. That's why I give it a 7 out of 10. It doesn't fix the inherent problems with Zoo Tycoon 2, but it does add more elements that increase the limited satisfaction of gameplay (like the rides and elevated paths). Overall, it is a worthy effort and nice addition to those who like Zoo Tycoon 2. For those who found the gameplay of Zoo Tycoon 2 lacking, you'll likely find the same here.
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