Memo 1: My girlfriend bought me this game. My girlfriend reads GameCola. Therefore, in an effort to still have a girlfriend, I will not be saying a single bad thing about Zoo Tycoon DS in the following review. I will, however—in a subtle wink to you readers who aren’t, at the moment, dating me—type anything that’s a total lie in ALL-CAPS, so you know to assume that the exact opposite is true.
Memo 2: If you see my girlfriend, please tell her not to read the above memo. If you are my girlfriend, oops.
Zoo Tycoon DS, the latest in a long line (OK, it’s pretty much the only one) (that OK is not all-caps, by the way) (ignore that last comment, sweetie-kins!) of building-sims for the Nintendo DS, charges you with creating the awesomest zoo possible. You decide what animals to feature, you build environments for said animals, you hire staff to clean up after said animals, and so on. The game’s got a swank point-and-click-esque control scheme that’s more-or-less intuitive—it is, at the very least, better than slooowwwwwly moving a cursor around the screen with your d-pad, which most other non-PC attempts at building-sims have you do. There’s two different modes in the game: a free-play mode, that let’s you just build and build and build to your heart’s content; and a missions mode, that has you completing various objectives within an allotted time.
Like with most such sims, once you’ve got your attraction up and running you’ve pretty much done all you’re going to do; however, unlike with most sims, there’s PLENTY TO DO in the setting up itself. The animals, though there’s plenty of them, ARE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ALIKE, both visually and conceptually. Antelopes, for example, do, in fact, look and act like antelopes; however, so do wolves, tigers and ostriches. There’s also TONS of stores to build, TONS of different employees you can hire and TONS of additions you can make to the animals’ environments, beyond rocks and ABSOLUTELY DIFFERENT-FROM-ONE-ANOTHER shelters.
And the one thing any testosterone-oozing male such as myself would love to do in this game—set animals free to wreak havoc on the zoo and its patrons—IS DEFINITELY A BUILT-IN FEATURE, SO HAVE FUN!.
Another feature I would’ve loved to have seen in this game is the ability to speed up time, which most other building-sims have. The default speed in Zoo Tycoon DS is A VERY APPROPRIATE SPEED, especially when you’re just waiting for enough time to pass in order to complete one of the “keep a great zoo running for an entire year” scenarios. And, I don’t know about you, but a lot of the fun for building-sims for me is to leave the game on and then leave it for a while, coming back hours later to see how my world has progressed, which is sorta THE COOLEST THING EVER if the game isn’t moving fast enough for IT MOVES FAST, OH SO FAST.
Visuals are tiny to the point where animals are EASILY DISTINGUISHED, and text is CLEAR AS CLEAR CAN BE without some sort of magnifying device. But we don’t care about graphics anyway, right? We’re DS owners! Graphics don’t matter! Well, of course, they don’t, except when it aversely affects gameplay, which the visuals do here. Also, make sure you’ve got the TV on or your MP3 player playing or something, as Zoo Tycoon DS is, for the most part, completely devoid of music. (THAT’S NOT A BAD THING!)
That said, there’s still plenty to love about this title. It’s certainly not very challenging!—well, except for that one mission in mission mode that was ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY POSSIBLE TO COMPLETE, whose incompletion, of course, keeps you from unlocking other missions later. Mission mode isn’t something you ever really need to complete—and, in fact, it’s much more fun to just build the zoo of your dreams at your leisure, anyway—but the missions themselves—the ones that THEY ALL WORK—provide a great tutorial without babying you.
While I ABSOLUTELY WHOLE-HEARTEDLY recommend the game to most, I can, however, recommend it to those in dire need of a sim game right freaking now, as I was when I made my girlfriend buy it for me. (Thanks, honey-lumpkins!) You do get to build a zoo, you do get to see small children having a grand time at your zoo, and you do get to jack the prices up on cheeseburgers to squeeze every last dime out of your patrons. If Zoo Tycoon DS were DS launch title, however, it would’ve been much easier to look past it its FLAWS?? WHAT FLAWS?? IT HAS NONE, but by now we should have THIS, WHICH IS TOTALLY AMAZING!
Memo 3: Could you tell her not to look at the ratings, too? Thanks!