Zoo Tycoon DS Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Nintendo DS
Release date:
October 10, 2005

Zoo Tycoon DS

Zoo simulations are supposed to be fun, right?

Review by Luana Rawlins (Email)
December 20th 2005

People play games for many reasons, but one of the main ones is to escape. Whether you've had a long day at work or just a stressful morning at school, sometime you just need a vacation right in the middle of your living room. With the broad spectrum available to us today, you can be and do almost anything you desire. If you want to be a soldier for the evening, games like Call of Duty or Medal of Honor await you. When you're frustrated and want to walk the seedier paths, Max Payne and Carl "CJ" Johnson (from the Max Payne and Grand Theft Auto series, respectively) can be your alter egos. You can be a pilot or a hero or even a race car driver... but a zookeeper?

Zoo Tycoon DS puts handheld simulation fans in control of a bustling zoo, and you'll do everything from placing the right plants in the right exhibits to tweaking admission and concession prices to turn a tidy profit. You'll do everything, but you may not particularly like how.

Fans of the genre will already be familiar with the basics of the Zoo Tycoon interface -- you'll have your menus for construction, animals, financial numbers and happiness ratings (both for your guests and your residents). The basic things you need to know to build and manage your zoo will be explained to you in a succinct, but lacking tutorial that demands completion before you can embark in Scenario Mode. Between this mode and the comparatively lax Freeform Mode, aspiring zookeepers and micromanagers alike will find more than enough ways to pass the time.

In my opinion, the main thing that has hindered many PC-to-console simulation ports has been the inability to recreate their natural controls with an analog stick and button interface. The DS, with its touch-screen and stylus, seems like it'd be a natural for this type of game and it is... to an extent. While some of the DS's nifty features are used in a wonderful way, the transition from computer screen to dual-screen hasn't been completely smooth.

Let's start with those aforementioned screens: the top screen is used to view the zoo itself, grid and all, and the bottom screen is for the menus and such. The L and R buttons are for rotating both objects and the map itself, and the directional pad is for navigating items onto the grid. This setup is natural, yet horrible at the same time.

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