There’s a certain appeal to owning and running a business, even if it’s simply within a video game, and the tycoon games have always done well to tap into this. The very first Zoo Tycoon game was only released for PC, and subsequently DS, in 2001, so console gamers had to wait until 2013 to experience the thrill of owning a zoo. After both an Xbox 360 and Xbox One version released for Microsoft’s band of home consoles 4 years ago, we now have a new version in Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection, which offers both improvements on the original game and a handful of new animals.
Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection: Xbox One [Reviewed], Windows PC
Developer: Asobo Studio
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: 31 October 2017
Price: £19.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
If you are familiar with the original game on Xbox One, then both the changes and things that have stayed the same will probably be pretty obvious straight from the off. As you enter the game, you’ll be met with the same menus and zoos on offer from before, which is to be expected as this is basically an enhanced version of the game. Where Ultimate Animal Collection improves on the previous content is by adding elements from the regions of Australia and South America, which can be seen in all the different modes of the game.
In Campaign mode, all of the original campaigns are back, which see you travelling to various places around the globe attempting to fix zoos that have already been created. This could involve moving animals around, bringing in new ones, keeping guests happy or a variety of other maintenance related objectives. These offer a good challenge in terms of gameplay, even more so with their varying difficulty, and the new content offers some brand new campaigns. Both Australia and South America have their own campaign modes, with five new campaigns to complete in each, involving the new animals also included in this upgraded version of the game. There’s a genuine challenge involved with some of these new campaigns, so don’t be surprised if you end up failing a couple of times before you finally beat it.
There are little changes in the other modes, apart from having more scope to build, which is a big plus. Sandbox, which gives the player unlimited money and everything researched in order for you to build whatever kind of zoo you want, and finally Challenge mode, in which you have to earn the money yourself, research items and build your zoo from the ground up, both benefit from this increased zoo size. These are probably the two modes where you’ll spend most of the time anyway, purchasing and taking pictures of all the animals, as well as breeding them to create new babies and new species, so being given a large amount of space is really quite handy.
With all that extra space, you’ll be dying to create more exhibits, and the new ones with the new animals offer an incentive to play the game again. Australia and South America both offer some interesting animals to play about with, including kangaroos, koalas, jaguars and anteaters. As with previous versions of the game, the animals you can breed also have colour varieties again, and if you want to get them all you’ll have to sink in plenty of time. All of the above are nice additions to the game but essentially it’s more of the same.
Of the improvements made to the game include the ability to have more control over your path placement, which makes planning a route throughout your zoo far easier than before, which makes navigating your zoo a more comfortable experience for any visitor. Also largely improved with the revamped version are the graphics, with the game looking more vibrant, colourful and impressive than the previous versions. Visitors faces look clearer and the large collection of animals on offer look even more realistic, which makes the game a more enjoyable experience to play through. Sadly though, for all of its exciting improvements, Ultimate Animal Collection returns with a lot of the same problems from 2013, along with a few new ones.
While the game is a far smoother experience and switching between the various views and exhibits is quick and easy, you’ll be sat watching loading screens for a large portion of the game. Loading into your zoos takes way longer than you think it should, whether there are things in your zoo already or not. On top of this, the game seems to have issues when your animals have babies or when you try and release them to the wild or move them, in that the helicopter that should appear often won’t, or that your mother and baby will never reappear into the exhibit. This makes your animal counter wrong and without a reload, will stay wrong indefinitely, which is more than just a little bit annoying and can ruin your hopes of completing challenges or keeping your animals happy.
Overall, Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection is a solid upgrade, and has many improvements including new animals, more control over the size and layout of your zoo and, possibly the most impressive – a large graphical advancement. Unfortunately, a lot of the problems with the game still remain, and long loading screens mixed with in-game issues will get in your way and even halt your progress sometimes. Ultimately though, this improved edition is a must buy for already established fans and still offers a good jumping in point for anyone who hasn’t experienced the thrill of running a zoo before.
Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection
- Improved graphics make the game look better than ever
- New animals and improved zoo size offer more scope for building
- New campaigns off more of a challenge
- Long loading screens blemish the experience
- Issues with animals having babies, moving and releasing to wild
- Would have worked just as well as an update or DLC