This weekend, I finally asked my kids to teach me how to play Zoo Tycoon 2, the game that they’ve given thousands of hours to since my son got it for his birthday.
FTC DISCLAIMER: I paid for it myself. The Zoo Tycoon 2 people have no idea I’m writing this article and therefore you can assume my opinions are completely my own. But if they happen to come across it and are so grateful that they shower me with gifts, I’ll be sure to come back and update.
The premise is that you build and operate a zoo. In practical terms, what this means is you have to manage your money, you have to build and maintain exhibits (and that means hiring people to care for your animals and the zoo grounds) and you need to keep your guests happy in order to keep your zoo generating income.
For the animals to be happy, they require a clean place to live (and an appropriate biome), food, water, and stimulation. The animals will interact, socialize, breed (inasmuch as pixels can do so — the birth of a baby animal takes play via beam of sparkling light an an announcement like “Gemsbok 1 Has Given Birth!”)
The guests are harder to keep happy: they require paths, benches, food carts, bathrooms, good views of the animals, and so on. Happy guests will stick around, and they’ll also make donations (meaning you have to put out donation boxes for them.) Unhappy guests will leave. Guests become unhappy when there’s trash on the ground, when the animals are unhappy or mistreated, or for a multitude of other reasons. Unhappy animals can become sick or even die.
The game is oddly soothing, and for that reason pleasantly addictive. Because unlike many games, the object of this game is to make people happy. You’re building. You’re budgeting. You’re planning. You’re creating.
My only complaint is that my son gripes at me, about 10 times a day, “Why don’t they make the expansion pack for the Mac already!”
I highly recommend Zoo Tycoon 2, if you’re looking for a game for a Christmas present. I bought it for my 12 year old, but my 8 year old plays it just fine as well.